Here’s the best thing about the careers of Hall of Famers Eddie Davis and Gene Makowsky:
They each could have played another 2-3 years after retiring from the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Davis, a defensive back, graciously walked away from his 15-year CFL career after the 2009 season. Makowsky, an offensive lineman, announced his retirement before the 2012 season with the proviso that, if the Roughriders really needed him, he would be willing to suit up again for an 18th season.
To their credit, the Roughriders didn’t beg the players to return, even though their departures left huge holes in the team’s locker room.
Davis, a St. Louis product who attended Northern Illinois University before joining the CFL’s Birmingham Barracudas in 1995, was the undisputed leader of Saskatchewan’s secondary after his 2001 arrival as a free-agent signee from the Calgary Stampeders. He frequently coached teammates through their responsibilities, never afraid to challenge them to be better, while he worked harder than any of them. He used to haul a rope ladder out to practices so he could do extra footwork drills. If he had slowed any by his final season, at age 36, it didn’t really show because he compensated so much with his knowledge and techniques.
A five-time all-star, Davis was usually responsible for one-on-one coverage of the oppposing team’s best receiver. And he assumed other responsibilities for his teammates, inviting them to regular gatherings where they intermingled with each other’s families, knowing that pro athletes could get in trouble whenever they were out in public. Davis was a captain, called upon by fans and media to sometimes explain what was happening with the team. And he never shied away from his responsibilities.
Makowsky was drafted in the second round by the Roughriders in 1995 after completing his college career in his home town of Saskatoon with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. He was expected to replace Hall of Famer Roger Aldag at left guard, but ultimately played only one game at that position. He eventually played every position on the offensive line and became the league’s best left tackle, a position usually played by “superior” Americans.
Makowsky made seven consecutive all-star teams and was named the CFL’s outstanding offensive lineman in 2004 and 2005. Shy and withdrawn at first, he later became the face of the franchise and a go-to guy for the media to give the overall, big-picture story of the Roughriders. A nice guy off the field, he was vicious on the field. His 284 regular-season games are the most of any player in Roughriders history.
Davis and Makowsky, teammates on the 2007 Grey Cup-winning Roughriders, are being inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame this weekend. The current Roughriders have an 0-7 record as they enter the Hall of Fame game Saturday against the reigning-champion Calgary Stampeders. The game is sold out, partly a testament to the Riders’ strong support, but also a testament to the fans who want to appreciate two of the team’s all-time greatest players…. and people.