The coolest scoop ever whispered to me came late last November in the visitors’ locker room at McMahon Stadium.
It came from Canadian Shawn Gore. It had nothing to do with football, yet everything to do with it, too.
“Don’t say this to anyone, because my wife isn’t telling people yet, but she’s pregnant,” smiled Gore. “Our third. I’m so blessed, man.”
The Stampeders had just run the Lions out of the gym. It was 32-0 at the half, 42-15 by the time the clock read zeros. Calgary was off to the Grey Cup; B.C. was going home.
As it turned out, Gore did for good.
Last week, the 30-year-old from Toronto, called it a pro football career after seven seasons in the game. He was as good in his last one as he was in his best – a catch and a yard short of that 2011 Grey Cup winning season, when he caught 60 balls for 836 yards. In a transient league, where player movement is as common as a rouge, Gore played all 113 regular season games in the same city for the same team.
And he’s not going anywhere.
Not long after the Lions announced his retirement, the soon-to-be father of three was sworn in with 29 other recruits as a member of the Vancouver Police Department. Jersey traded in for a badge.
At the end, pro football can often leave grown men broken and bankrupt, bitter and at the bottom. Your body goes through hell – while playing every week; to make sure you can play every week; to hide symptoms every week. You lie to yourself – it doesn’t hurt, you can still go, this is what you’re paid to do. There’s a lifestyle to uphold in an alpha male environment – spending habits can be suspect.
Gore has emerged as one of the lucky ones: left on his terms and transitioned into a team atmosphere at the end of his football life. That rarely happens.
He told reporters that he’s a rookie again, joining the Vancouver PD. “My eyes are open, my ears are open, I’m just ready to learn,” Gore said.
Just as he was when he entered the CFL as the tenth overall pick in 2010, being an integral part of B.C. winning that championship the following year. But then came the injuries, and the concussions. One after another. That November night in Calgary, Gore told me he wasn’t sure how many he had. It had him thinking about what was important – there were two young girls at home, after all, and another on the way. Everyone but the outgoing CFL commissioner seems to realize the toll football has on the brain, and the long term impact it can have. Three kids change a grown man’s perspective. Going over the middle – knowing you’ll be sandwiched between a linebacker and free safety after a catch – provides a rush when you’re 23. It makes your desire to leave even more when you’re 30, and know there are real responsibilities outside of the stadium.
Gore had spent winters working with youth through the B.C. Lions community program. In-season, he was as highly respected a player in that locker room. A real pro. He took the opportunities presented to him in football to open up doors that led to him taking an oath with fellow cops yesterday.
He has his ring, his health, his family, and now a different career as he begins a new life chapter.
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