Stegall looks stiff, but he's not

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:06 AM ET

Milt Stegall walked out for his first practice with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers wearing a long-sleeve shirt and gloves.

It was mid-September 1995.

Stegall's head coach at the time, Cal Murphy, asked him why he was dressed that way, because it wasn't even cold yet.

Stegall may have been dressed oddly, but Murphy loved what he saw when the new guy ran routes for the first time.

"When we got him, you could just see that he's got talent right off the bat, no question about it," Murphy said recently. "And he could run. He had speed, and what still amazes me about the guy is that he's still got the speed.

"He's kind of a funny little runner. He looks stiff, but he's not stiff. That's one of the things I remember about him right off the bat."

Paul Jones was the Bombers director of player personnel in the mid-1990s, and he was the one who thought enough of Stegall to put him on the team's negotiation list.

"We'd been watching him for some time, because he was in Cincinnati (in the NFL) at the time and he had had some injuries," said Murphy, now a scout for the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. "You get too many injuries down there, you don't last very long."

Fit in right away

Murphy was right, and before long Stegall signed a prorated contract with the Bombers worth $55,000. It came at a good time, too, as the Bombers were struggling in the wake of the American expansion draft.

"He fit in right away," Murphy said. "He was a sight for sore eyes."

And he's been pleasant viewing for Bomber fans for the last 13 years.

"I didn't know he was going to play (14 years) or anything like that," said Murphy, who coached the Bombers until the end of the 1996 campaign. "I do know that he had the chance to go back to the NFL and stuff, but I really felt that this game was really made for him, the Canadian game.

"Some guys are that way because of the field and everything else. They fit in very well."

Murphy said Stegall's shiftiness and toughness are the main reasons why he's was able to flourish north of the border.

"He's got the ability to go by people when they are not expecting him to go by," he said. "The other thing that people have always underestimated is his ability to go get the ball. He can make the tough catches and do it in a crowd, too."

Murphy was asked if he knew way back in 1995 that Stegall was destined to become the CFL's touchdown king.

"Oh, yeah, sure I did," Murphy said with a chuckle. "No, I didn't."

Murphy said it's Jones who deserves the kudos for having the foresight to put Stegall on the neg list.

"Paul did a great job of scouting him," he said. "He deserves a lot of credit for that. ... He was right about the guy all the way along."


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