Jim Hopson wasn’t nearly as good an offensive lineman as John Terry.
Yet when it comes to the Saskatchewan Roughriders enshrining both men into their Plaza of Honour, Hopson is a shoo-in while Terry is one of those inductees who the fans might say, “Hmmm, I think I remember him.”
That’s not personal bias simply because I wrote a book with Hopson, who played nondescript guard for his hometown Roughriders from 1973-76 and later became the CFL team’s first non-volunteer, paid, full-time president and CEO. Hopson served in that capacity from 2005-15 as the community-owned franchise won two Grey Cups, appeared in two others, became the CFL’s wealthiest franchise and prepared to move into a brand-new stadium that the Roughriders helped finance.
Hopson’s exploits were well-documented in “Running the Riders: My Decade as CEO of Canada’s Team.” He hand-wrote it, handed me the pages so I could type them, fact-check and embellish (or edit) when necessary.
It’s a pretty good book and shows how Hopson changed the franchise’s mindset from “poor-us” to “we’re-the-best,” an attitude that translated onto the field and into the grandstands, right to the cash register. Of particular interest to his co-author, who was the Roughriders beat writer for the Regina Leader-Post during part of Hopson’s tenure, was the process of replacing general manager Roy Shivers and head coach Danny Barrett with Eric Tillman and Kent Austin, respectively, who subsequently led the Roughriders to the 2007 Grey Cup.
Terry is also a familiar subject, although he admittedly isn’t a well-known name in Rider history. A native of Greenwood, South Carolina, Terry was one of my favourite players because, like most offensive linemen, he was approachable, intelligent and available during the offseason for phone-call updates.
Terry played the offensive line’s most important position, left tackle, from 1996-2001 with the Roughriders, sandwiched between two stints with the Toronto Argonauts. A three-time Western all-star and twice a CFL all-star, Terry was with the Roughriders during a downturn in their fortunes, although they surprisingly made a Grey Cup appearance in 1997 and lost to the Doug Flutie-led Toronto Argonauts.
One of their most memorable road trips during Terry’s stay came in September, 2001, when their game against the Calgary Stampeders was delayed following the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S. The Roughriders eschewed their flight arrangements in the aftermath of the hijackings and instead took buses to Calgary, where they were holed up in a luxury hotel for five days with a minimal amount of clothes and — because of the terror attack’s effect on businesses and banking — needed the CFL to help finance some of their expenses.
Like his fellow American teammates, Terry was insightful, emotional and worried about friends and family in the States, while trying to stay prepared for a game that initially was going to be played as scheduled until CFL Commissioner Michael Lysko decided to delay it to Monday, September 17 from Friday, September 14. Calgary won the game and went on to become Grey Cup champion while Saskatchewan missed the playoffs.
After retiring from football, Terry appeared in a television series about pro football players. He was a paid actor. Now he’s in the Roughriders’ Plaza of Honour, to be enshrined with Hopson during festivities Aug. 17 in Regina.
Maybe Terry would like to write a book, too.