MILTON: Fantuz walks away from the game on his own terms

He was wearing his only Grey Cup ring, earned with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but he was dressed in Hamilton Tiger-Cat black and gold.

It was that same sense of balance that led to Andy Fantuz formally announcing his retirement from football Thursday.

The Tiger-Cats, with the Riders in town as the opposition, honoured the receiver’s exemplary career with a brief ceremony and video scoreboard tribute after the first quarter. The crowd rose to its feet in appreciation of an honest, diligent, talented star.

“When the season started, I was training to come back and play,” the 34-year-old Fantuz says. “A month ago I wasn’t sure I’d be making this decision.”

But, after 12 seasons of road trips, when daughter Abigail was born to Fantuz and his wife Amanada three weeks ago, he had no trouble figuring out what to do. No more ambiguity. He was done.

Fantuz, who arrived in Hamilton as a free agent for the 2012 season after six big years in Saskatchewan was convinced by Ticat CEO Scott Mitchell to sign here. Somehow, he never incurred the longterm wrath of the often-spiteful Rider fans, a testament to his status in the community and his quietly professional demeanour.

“You’re loved and respected in both places,” said Eric Tillman, his general manager here and in Saskatchewan. “You impacted two franchises in a remarkable way.”

Ticat fans, already emotional in the final season of Ivor Wynne Stadium, immediately took to Fantuz and the punishment he was willing to withstand as a possession receiver. From the beginning they chanted “Fan-toooooz”after most of his catches and they did it again when he was standing-ovationed into retirement.

There was a certain validation of the city and the franchise in Fantuz’s free agency choice of Hamilton over strong overtures from his former team and the Argonauts. That resonated in Ticat Nation, which embraced him as he embraced the city.

He spoke highly of the Ticats and the city Thursday, specifically citing working with sick children at Hamilton hospitals with his teammates.

Fantuz will go down as one of the top 10 Canadian receivers of all time. He was the league’s top Canadian in 2010 with the Riders, scored the winning touchdown in the 2007 Grey Cup but didn’t win another Cup, despite four more appearances. Twice he was voted the best Canadian in the league’s championship game.

He has the fourth-most receptions among Canadian receivers and late in 2016 became the first Tiger-Cat to catch more than 100 passes in a single season, with 101.

In the second last game of the 2016 season he tore his ACL and didn’t return until late last season, by which time June Jones had taken over for Kent Austin, who’d coached him here and in Regina. The Cats did not re-sign him this year.

While he was injured helped the team as a coach and said Thursday that experience might lead him to return to the game in that capacity. Meanwhile, he’s working in fitness consulting and training with younger athletes and considering what type of future he’ll have in football. He knows there will be one.

He had some offers to play this year but didn’t want to be away for Abigail’s birth, yet there’s lots of speculation that he could be lured out of retirement later in the season if the Ticats or Argos needed a Canadian receiver for a deep playoff run. He did say, “You never say never” but added that he didn’t want to be one of those players who un-retires right away. Still …

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (244 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

11 Comments on MILTON: Fantuz walks away from the game on his own terms

  1. Congrats on a great career.

  2. mr62cats // July 20, 2018 at 1:49 pm //

    Good luck on whatever he does next. I hope he stays in football and can become a successful coach. I doubt that will happen under June Jones…but Jones will likely not be around much longer anyway.He talks a good line and says all the right things but this team seems confused right now…especially the offence.

  3. Bo Levi is a bust // July 20, 2018 at 2:12 pm //

    in his interview last night at the Ticats/Rider game he thanks Ridernation for supporting him and acknowledged them as the best fans in the cfl.

  4. Brian Lower // July 20, 2018 at 3:04 pm //

    I think he acknowledged both organizations and their fans. Stop trying to stir up crap

  5. Fantuz matured as a player and a person. He was an outstanding Canadian talent, but he always wanted to do things his way. It is a stretch to say he went out on his own terms….unless that means that he wanted to play in Hamilton, or else nowhere. That is why he got ready for the season, but couldn’t land a contract with the tabbies. So, from that perspective, he went out on his own terms. Most players would have gone to another team…and it takes a strong person to say “no” but, like most athletes, he still yearns to be running patterns.

  6. He loved the adoration in Riderville, but he left there for a reason:family back home, playing up to ladies’ adoration in his “hometown.” His desire to do that was greater than any loyalty to Rider nation.

  7. Enrico Arcuri // July 20, 2018 at 3:40 pm //

    Cool story on Fantuz … definitely a class act & one of the greatest Canadian receivers of all-time. Too bad the TiCats cannot ink another Canadian reiceiver in Mark Chapman as they could have certainly used his playmaking abilities this season. What a debabcle.

  8. Sixbeamers // July 20, 2018 at 3:58 pm //

    One of the most thoughtful of CFL players, Fantuz was also in the forefront of those concerned about head trauma and concussions and what can be done to make football safer. About five years ago, he pledged his brain for post mortem study with the Sports Legacy Institute, founded in 2007 by Chris Nowinski, a former professional wrestler, and Dr. Robert Cantu. They believed brain trauma in sports — not just football — is so serious and widespread that it has become a public health issue.
    “You can’t get rid of sports. It’s a great part of life,” Fantuz said, in an interview with The Vancouver Sun. “You’ve just got to try and make it as safe as possible, through awareness and research. Every year they’re coming up with defining new technologies and the science behind it.”
    Fantuz threw himself into the concussion awareness movement in 2012 after he was injured in an August game against the Calgary Stampeders. At first, Tiger-Cats head coach George Cortez was reluctant to admit the player had an actual concussion. But Fantuz knew, even though it was his first documented incident. Later that season, he publicly announced his intention to donate his brain for study by the SLI.
    He has addressed a University of Western Ontario symposium on sports-related brain injuries and partnered with the Ontario Football Association to run a brain safety football camp for young athletes, offering free advice and techniques to keep players safe.
    “I don’t want this game to become too scary for parents and kids,” he said. “It’s kind of leaning in that direction. Enrolment is down. But it doesn’t need to be that way.”

  9. Congrads Andy well deserved…good luck in the future….but plz plz don’t carry a baby that way again….mothers were terrified…haha

    • Steve J. // July 21, 2018 at 10:39 am //

      If anybody is going to hang onto that baby without dropping her, it’s going to be Fantuz! Congratulations, Andy, on a great career. I’m glad we got to share your talent here in Hamilton for the last few years. All the best in the future with Amanda and Abby.

  10. Congrats to Andy on a great career and on the recent birth of his daughter. Good luck in retirement – there’ll be many more adventures ahead in life. Hopefully that includes returning to the Ticats in some capacity in the future. A great Canadian player and an even better person.

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