Sometimes it’s relaxing to forget how badly this season is going for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and revel instead in the team’s past by remembering some of its great players.
In the dying days of their current 1-11 campaign, the Roughriders are preparing to meet the visiting Montreal Alouettes on Sunday during the home team’s annual Plaza of Honor weekend. (It’s been Plaza of Honor, not the Canadianized Plaza of Honour, since Gord Staseson and his committee founded the shrine in 1987).
Running back Tim McCray and defensive tackle Scott Schultz, Grey Cup winners from two different eras, are being enshrined in the Plaza of Honor during the weekend’s festivities.
For years, outside observers had been wondering why McCray was one of the few stars from the 1989 Grey Cup-winning Roughriders who had not been inducted into the Plaza.
McCray was with the Roughriders for five season, but was stellar only in 1988 and 1989 when he was an all-purpose tailback, capable of carrying or catching the football, blocking for quarterbacks Kent Austin or Tom Burgess and returning kickoffs. He led the CFL and set a Riders record (since surpassed) in 1989 with 2,684 multi-purpose yards. He was named the team’s most popular player that season, which he capped with 233 multi-purpose yards and one touchdown in Saskatchewan’s 43-40 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup game.
McCray moved back to the U.S. after his career ended and has survived a bout of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Schultz, meanwhile, retained his larger-than-life persona by staying in Regina after retiring midway through the 2009 season to focus on his insurance business.
Born in Moose Jaw, Schultz attended the University of North Dakota and was the first overall pick in the 2001 CFL draft. He had tryouts with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers, ultimately becoming a mainstay in the middle of the Riders’ defensive line, a go-to guy for the media who helped him gain extra notoriety when he called the B.C. Lions offensive linemen “fat and sassy pigs.’’ He later apologized. Schultz uses his strong opinions as an analyst on CKRM radio shows.
When the Roughriders won the 2007 Grey Cup, beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19 in the same Toronto stadium where the Riders had won 18 years earlier, Schultz was front and centre in the team’s celebrations, smoking a gigantic cigar while dousing himself and others with champagne. McCray, in 1989, was in contrast quite subdued and difficult to locate amid the celebrations.
It’s funny to think that McCray, playing a high-profile role for his team as a tailback/returner, was often and almost overlooked because of his low-key demeanour. Meanwhile, Schultz played one of the game’s most anonymous positions, defensive tackle, and became one of the Riders’ highest profile players. Yet they’re going into the Plaza of Honor together as worthy inductees.