A Ticats draft pick 92 years in the making

Grandpa wept.

When Mercer Timmis — son of Brian III, who is the son of Brian II, who is the son of the original and most-famous Brian Timmis — was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the implausible continuation of a 92-year-old football story took direct aim at his grandfather’s tear ducts.

“He was just bawling,” Brian III says.

It’s not hard to understand why. There’s simply no better local story in Hamilton these days than what happened just after 8 p.m. on Tuesday night.

The name Brian Timmis is no mystery to people around here. Back in the 1920s and ’30s, he was a sledgehammer of a running back for the Hamilton Tigers. Three times, he won a Grey Cup with that team, one of two outfits that eventually became the Tiger-Cats. The other half of that equation was the Hamilton Flying Wildcats. He later coached that organization to a Grey Cup title in 1943, too. Then he was named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame’s inaugural class.

The old man was such a legend that they named a stadium after him here in town. It’s now gone, clear-cut to make room for Tim Hortons Field. No worries though, the city’s facility naming subcommittee voted Tuesday to name a new field at the old Dominion Glass site in his honour.

Mercer knows the story well. He may have chosen to play his college ball in Calgary over McMaster, but he fully understands the family’s connection to this city and its football past.

His name is his great-grandfather’s middle name. Every time he went up the stairs to his bedroom as a boy he walked past a virtual gallery of photos and posters and memorabilia of the hero they called “The Old Man Of The Mountain.” Every day he saw pictures, championship plaques and even one of the original Brian’s teeth that had been knocked out in a game and that was now preserved in a shadow box.

“I did a couple school projects on him,” Mercer says.

So when a dozen family and friends — including Mercer’s sister who’d flown in from Boston for the day — were sitting around the living room watching the draft on TV Tuesday night, he didn’t dare imagine he’d end up a Ticat. Anywhere would’ve been fine. But Hamilton? That was too crazy to contemplate.

The first round passed. His name wasn’t called. He expected that. But as the broadcast ended, the family hooked up the computer to the set to watch the live stream of the rest of the event.

Then, disaster.

Either they lost their online stream at home or the delay experienced by TSN flipping over to the webcast kicked in. Either way, there was nothing. For 10 or 15 minutes they waited. Blank. Time stood still. Which is when his sister finally checked Twitter.

Hamiltonhad taken him.

There was a split second of stunned silence. Everyone looked at each other in disbelief.

“Then everyone just went berserk,” says Brian III.

In the bedlam, he looked over at his father, Mercer’s grandfather. Brian II had been a fullback with the Saskatchewan Roughriders for a year in 1953. He was a tough guy. Yet the tears were flowing.

The 86-year-old isn’t embarrassed by the waterworks. In the celebration, he was quietly thinking of all the times in earlier years that he and a tiny Mercer would throw the ball then sit down so he could tell the already football-crazy youngster stories of the legend who shared his last name and bloodline. He understood the meaning of this moment. To him this was beautiful.

“There is a big connection there between the Timmis family and the Tiger-Cats,” he says.

From there, the rest of the night was a party. Mercer’s phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Texts and emails were pouring in like a tsumani, including from his brother. For the record, yes, that’s Brian IV.

Of course, he still has to make the team. But that’s for another day. Business can wait for a few hours.

As for that nickname his great-grandpa carried, well, that’s one area the newest Ticat is way behind the old man in right now. Some folks at the University of Calgary have tried to give him a nickname, but none have stuck. Like, Dr. Goal Line.

“That was brutal,” he says.

Or the Big Red Truck.

“I hated that one,” he says, shaking his head.

There were others. No sense mentioning any more, though. They weren’t good either. Besides, he’s more interested in reintroducing the Timmis name to a new generation of Hamiltonians.

So a nickname? No.

“I have to make a name for myself.”

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