Hall of Famers aren’t made in a single season, but a year to remember can certainly put an exclamation point on a remarkable career.
That was the case for University of Calgary Dinos’ receiver Don Blair, whose 1995 campaign on the gridiron was one of the most prolific in Canadian university football history.
The Ottawa native, who started his career with the Dinos in 1992, had a season for the ages. His 1,112 receiving yards in 1995 remain the most in conference history, along with 15 receiving touchdowns.
Calgary’s electric offence led the country in scoring that season (317 points), as the Dinos topped the Canada West regular season standings with a 6-2 record, before earning an epic 32-30 overtime win over the Saskatchewan Huskies in the Hardy Cup.
“In 1995, we knew the Hardy Cup final against Saskatchewan would likely be for a trip to the Vanier. It was one of the greatest games I have ever been a part of, not because of my personal performance, but just an epic football game,” Blair said back in 2014.
“A great catch by Brett Campbell on the sidelines set up our field goal to tie the game. I remember that game like it was last week. Our league was so tough that year. We were in lots of close games and went 6-2.”
A convincing 37-7 win over Ottawa in the Churchill Bowl punched the Dinos’ ticket to the Vanier Cup in Toronto. It was there that Blair capped off his university career in style, including being named the Hec Crighton Trophy winner as the nation’s top player.
In the big game, Calgary faced the defending Vanier Cup champion Western Mustangs. The stage was set for Blair’s final record-setting game as a Dino. Blair scored a Vanier Cup record four touchdowns, as Calgary earned a fourth national title with a 54-24 win.
“In 1993, we had lost late in the Vanier Cup game to Toronto; we seemed happy to be there. Then, the 1994 season was a huge disappointment for us. That year, we had a good team but were not solid as a group,” Blair recalled.
“I remember how professional and locked-in we were as a group (in 1995). We knew what do and what the expectations were. We were internally confident despite being underdogs going into that game. That played into our strength. They (Western Ontario) had no idea what they were in for. We had been waiting for this since 1993.”
Calgary’s 1995 Vanier Cup win capped Blair’s remarkable run in red. His 2,611 regular season receiving yards remain the most in school history (fifth in CW), while his 26 career receiving touchdowns are second in Calgary and CW history.
As the calendar shifted from 1995 to 1996, things kept rolling for Blair, as he became the first skill position player from Canadian university football to take part in the East-West Shrine Game. He would later earn an invite to the Hula Bowl in Hawaii, further showcasing his skills against some of the top draft-eligible players in the NCAA.
From there, Blair was named the nation’s top male student-athlete (Howard Mackie Award, now Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards), and eventually the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 CFL Draft by Edmonton.
Blair continued to get it done on the gridiron at the professional level for eight CFL seasons, including during his Grey Cup-winning season in 2000 with the B.C. Lions. He would eventually retire from pro football in 2003, wrapping up his career with his hometown Calgary Stampeders.
Don Blair career highlights:
- Three-time Hardy Cup champion (1992, 1993, 1995)
- Canada West single-season record 1,112 receiving yards (1995)
- 1995 Hec Crighton Trophy winner
- 1995 Vanier Cup MVP and champion
- First overall selection in 1996 CFL Draft (Edmonton)
- 2000 Grey Cup champion (B.C.)
- First Canada West Hall of Fame inductee for 2020-2021 class