In October 2010, Angelo Mosca showed up to a Hamilton Tiger-Cats practice to impart a little wisdom.
It was a few weeks after then-Hamilton offensive lineman Jason Jimenez had come under fire for a block on B.C. Lions defensive end Brent Johnson. The hit was late and low. Not only was Jimenez was flagged and fined but the league changed the rule to make the hit illegal.
The play renewed the debate as to whether Jimenez was a dirty player, an allegation that followed him most of his career. It was during that time that Mosca showed up at practice and spent a few minutes chatting with Jimenez on the sideline.
“I said, ‘Don’t change for anybody, ‘ because once you start changing the way you play to satisfy referees, you’ll be less effective, ” Mosca said afterwards. “I assured him that his coaches and his teammates don’t mind the way he’s playing.”
Mosca was a regular visitor to Ticats practice in those days, offering guidance and support – sometimes in the most profane of terms – while providing new Ticats with a sense of how the team and its city were intertwined. Defensive end Justin Hickman, who first joined the team in 2009, said chatting with Mosca helped him understand the mentality.
“Whether you’re strapping on a football helmet or strapping on your hard hat, this is a town filled with people who step up and go to work. That’s what we do, ” said Hickman. “He’s rough around the edges, and when he played you knew what you were going to get: he was going line up and he was going to hit somebody in the mouth.
“He was going to be tough, and that’s what defence is about.”
The Ticats will retire Mosca’s No. 68 before the Aug. 27 home game against the Montreal Alouettes.
It will be just the second number the franchise has retired, after Bernie Faloney’s No. 10.
Mosca played most of his 15-year CFL career with the Ticats, starting in 1958. He was a two-time CFL all-star and won five Grey Cups, four of them with Hamilton. His final game was the 1972 championship 13-10 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the old Ivor Wynne Stadium.
“He was a great football player, he’s a great ambassador for our football team and one of the most recognizable guys in the history of this franchise, ” said head coach Kent Austin.
“The thing I like is that Ang is still around, still a part of it, ” Austin added
Ticat centre Mike Filer currently wears No. 68 and, as a Brantford native who grew up watching Ticat games at Ivor Wynne, understood the significance the day he put it on.
“When I was given this number in 2012, I was like, ‘Should I really be wearing this jersey?'” Filer said. “I had many talks with Ang about the number and it has been an honour. I never tried to fill the shoes because they are such big shoes to fill.”
In recent years, Mosca’s appearances at practice became less frequent. At 78, he’s slowing down. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s this past winter.
Filer says the lessons that Mosca passed along won’t soon be forgotten. By retiring his number, the things Mosca stands for will be enshrined forever.
“He was the heart and soul of this team for many years and he was a big part of the city of Hamilton, ” Filer said. “He’s a legend and he will continue to be a legend.”