No. 85 kinda special

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Now that he has been inducted into the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Hall of Fame, Milt Stegall does not believe any Bomber will ever wear his No. 85 again.

However, Stegall did not demand his number be retired.

"I can't say that because there are some Bombers who came before me and they didn't retire their numbers," he said before the official induction at last night's Legacy Dinner. "So if Kenny Ploen and (Chris) Walby and all these great players who came before me, they didn't retire their numbers, it's hard to say. But I know nobody is allowed to wear their numbers so that's an honour in itself.

"But if it was up to me, I don't think anybody in the CFL should wear No. 85."

Stegall retired after last season and the club waived its usual waiting period for induction into its own hall for only the second time in its history. After all, Stegall set CFL records for most career touchdowns (147), most TD receptions (144), most TDs in one season (23) and numerous club records, including most career receptions (854), yards.

"I never thought I'd be in Winnipeg for 14 years and I never thought I'd be a hall-of-famer going into the Winnipeg hall of fame, and the fact I'm doing it just after finishing my career is an honour and a pleasure," said Stegall, 39.

The induction was a closure, of sorts, to a brilliant career.

"It lets me know that my career was pretty good," he said. "Everybody wants to be recognized one way or another. We all want that attention, we all want that camera in front of your face and this is one way of getting that recognition, knowing that you're being put into the hall of fame and hopefully one day, into the CFL Hall of Fame.

"But right now, this is recognizing Milt Stegall as being one of the greatest warriors in the Blue Bomber history. To go into the hall of fame with all the greats that belong to this organization really means a lot to me and my family."

Although he never did win that elusive Grey Cup, Stegall will treasure the memory of scoring a 100-yard touchdown on the last play of the game to beat the Eskimos in Edmonton in 2006.

"People say you didn't get your Grey Cup ring but that was my Grey Cup play right there," he said proudly. "That was something special and I think that was the greatest play in football history. I don't think you could ever duplicate it and I don't think you could ever match it."

But what Stegall did off the field, working with charities and making speeches and appearances, meant even more to him.

"They were more important than what I did on the field," he said. "Hopefully, that's a legacy that lives on forever and forever."

Although Stegall will remain involved as a TSN analyst, he was asked if he already misses being on the field.

"Mentally, yes," he said. "Physically, I think my body's better off without it ... I would still enjoy being out there but my football career had run its course and it was definitely time to move on."

The Bombers already miss him.

"He was like a big brother to all of us," said receiver Arjei Franklin. "He was not only a great player but a presence in the locker-room. He was a great leader and a lot of fun and had a lot of wisdom about the game and about life as well."

Linebacker Barrin Simpson called Stegall "the Jerry Rice of our league."

"He's always going to be a teammate and he was a great player," he said. "We definitely miss his personality."


Photos