Stegall goes for receiving record on retro night

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Milt Stegall hasn't been around since the days of leather helmets and wool uniforms.

But for a few moments yesterday, Stegall, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers veteran who is on the verge of becoming the leading pass receiver in CFL history, looked the part. Stegall, who needs 17 yards to pass Allen Pitts on the career list, wore a faux leather helmet as he talked to the media in an empty Rogers Centre. The garb was part of the promotion lead-in for tonight's game between the Argos and Bombers, which is the first in the CFL's inaugural retro week to celebrate past eras.

"How they played in this type of helmet, I am not sure," Stegall, 38, said. "My teammates have been teasing me, saying my college coach sent me this from my rookie year."

Stegall will be wearing his usual regulation helmet when he attempts to move to 14,892 yards, a milestone that would put him one yard beyond Pitts. The game won't be stopped if Stegall breaks the record, but there will be a video tribute.

But there's a problem with breaking big records. Athletes always have to pretend it's not a big deal, lest they appear to be putting self ahead of team, and Stegall is no different.

"My main concern is winning the game," Stegall said. "When it happens, I will celebrate it for a second. I took some advice from (former CFL great) Mike Pringle, and he said to enjoy it, because once it's over, they won't be asking you about it.

"I might go out, have me a double shot of orange juice. We'll see what happens."

Though Stegall has lost a step and had to think hard about returning this season, the respect for him remains. Argos head coach Don Matthews sent Stegall an e-mail when the latter became the CFL career leader in touchdowns last season and has been keeping tabs on the Bombers and other CFL happenings from his home in Oregon.

"I have SLAM! Sports and TSN.ca on my computer but I could not see any games," Matthews said. "(Stegall) used to win with speed and now he wins with brains."

Stegall caused a stir when he called the Matthews' hiring in Toronto "a publicity stunt" to which Matthews yesterday said, pointing at himself: "If they wanted to bring in this face, they had better choices. Ask the players if they think I am a publicity stunt."

Stegall, of course, had a response: "He has looked better since he left the game (in October of 2006). Before, he would be standing over there and I would think, 'He's not about to die, is he?'

Stegall said he has no regrets about returning even though the Bombers are 2-8 and in danger of missing the playoffs. The job of head coach Doug Berry, who reportedly has signed a three-year extension, something the club has not announced, could be on the line.

"I have been coaching for over 30 years and I am well aware of (the possibility of being fired) before this week," Berry said. "I guess it's something we understand when we take the reins -- that we can get knocked off the horse."


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