Hobbling into sunset

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

The future Canadian Football Hall of Famer returned for one last kick at the Grey Cup cat.

But it looks like Milt Stegall will hobble into the sunset without that coveted championship ring.

The legendary Winnipeg Blue Bombers receiver had already come to grips with that before making any official announcement on his future.

"My career is not based on wins and losses as my legacy," Stegall said before a scrum hastily formed in the Bomber reception area yesterday. "My legacy is based on what I've done off the field. Have I touched lives? What I've done on the field one day will be forgotten. But, if all the talking I've done at the churches and schools and community centres, if I've touched some lives, my legacy will live on forever because those lives will touch lives and so on.

"I enjoy what I do, I'm very passionate about it. I enjoy it but when I leave the football field, the football's left on the field. Of course, God and my family are the most important things in my life."

What Stegall has done on the gridiron has been nothing short of brilliant. If he does finally call it quits, he will leave as the CFL's all-time leading receiver (15,153 yards on 854 catches), touchdown leader (147) and most TD receptions (144).

Stegall plans to announce his decision after discussing the future with his family and Bomber management, but will likely do so before Christmas.

"They have certain directions they want to go in," said Stegall, who turns 39 in January. "If I'm not coming back, they'll want to put my money (salary) somewhere else so a decision will be made before (January)."

But it would be an inglorious end. It took Stegall a long time to recover from knee surgery conducted a month before training camp. That kept him out of the lineup for the first five games of the season. He never did seem quite right even after he came back.

"If I'm on the field, I'm healthy enough to play," he insisted. "As far as being totally recovered or totally back to what I used to be, probably not. But, no excuses."

Stegall caught just 29 passes for 458 yards and three touchdowns this season. He grabbed five for 56 yards in the semifinal loss to the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday.

"If that was my last game, I'm happy," Stegall said. "The fact that I played 17 years, I won't complain. If it was my last game, I'll celebrate the years I played because it was a blessing.

"If you compare (the season) to last year, it is a disappointment and you hate to say that because ... it's supposed to be fun. But we're paid to win games and to win championships and we didn't take care of that. As far as me on a personal level, I'm going to continue to have fun. I always have fun. I had fun this year."


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