Hamilton native Frank Cosentino’s life in football honoured by hall of fame

Frank Cosentino will be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as a builder later this year but this much is also true: football built Frank Cosentino.

Growing up the son of an immigrant in Hamilton’s North End, he used football to find his place in the community. It was his solace and inspiration when his father was killed in a workplace accident when Cosentino was just 16. He met his wife at a dance celebrating a high school championship win for Cathedral.

He was drafted by the Ticats, played 10 years in the CFL from 1960 to 1969 as Canadian quarterback (he won two Grey Cups with Hamilton) then coached more than a decade of university football while also writing three books on the game.

“Everything that I prepared myself for through football opened doors and it was great. I still marvel at the way it turned out,” Cosentino, now 80, said Wednesday at the gala event in Winnipeg that announced the 2018 class of inductees. “It’s terrific and I think builder was the right category for me.”

Cosentino was announced as part of the 2018 class that includes punter Hank Ilesic, stalwart offensive lineman Scott Flory, late centre/linebacker Tom Hugo, defensive lineman Brent Johnson and defensive back Barron Miles, who will all be inducted as players. Paul Brule was honoured for his outstanding university career.

The inductees will be enshrined in September in Hamilton, boosting the Hall of Fame’s membership to 296.

The six-foot-one, 210-pound Illesic, an Edmonton native, joined the Eskimos from St. Joseph’s High School. He played 20 seasons, also spending time with the Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and B.C. Lions as well as the NFL’s San Diego Chargers and L.A. Rams.

Flory, 41, of Regina, was a nine-time all-star over 15 seasons with the Montreal Alouettes (1999-2013). The six-foot-four, 300-pound Flory was the CFL’s top lineman in 2008-09 and helped Montreal win three Grey Cups (2002, 09-10) before retiring.

Johnson, 41, of Kingston, Ont., spent 11 seasons with the B.C. Lions (2000-11). The former Ohio state star was twice the CFL’s top Canadian (2005-06) and its outstanding defensive player (’06). A two-time Grey Cup champion, Johnson led the CFL in sacks twice (17 in ’05, 16 in ’06) and is B.C.’s all-time leader (89).

Hugo, a Honolulu native, played seven seasons with Montreal (1953-59). He earned an incredible 12 all-star nods while registering 25 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. Hugo died in 2004 at age 74.

Miles, 46, played 12 seasons with Montreal (1998-2004) and B.C. (2005-2009), registering 66 career interceptions, the second-most in CFL history. The six-time league all-star also holds the league mark for most blocked kicks (13) and played on two Grey Cup-winning teams. He’s currently a defensive backs coach for the Edmonton Eskimos.

Brule, a Montreal native, was a dominant running back/defensive back at St. Francis Xavier. He became Canadian university football’s first 1,000-yard rusher in 1966 and set a single-season record with 20 rushing TDs before establishing a new benchmark of 25.

Cosentino’s last book on the CFL, Home Again, covered the modern era of the league but ended with the 2014 season. He says he’d like to update it at some point as there are still a few more chapters to write.

“I’m pleased that I’m being recognized as having contributed to the growth of football in Canada,” he said. “Football has been such an important facet in my life.”

– with files from CP