Dave Naylor makes Hall of Fame case for departed friend Chris Schultz

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Dave Naylor worked with Chris Schultz for a long time, but even before the two were paired up  on screen, Naylor knew who he was.

When asked about the sudden passing of the beloved TSN broadcaster by Michael Landsberg on TSN1050 in Toronto, Naylor couldn’t help but recall being 16 and watching football with his cousin from Burlington.

“We were at my grandfather’s cottage in 1983 and he was telling me about this guy that he played against in high school basketball who was playing for the Dallas Cowboys,” Naylor remembered. “It was a TV that had an aerial on the roof and the TV was grainy. I remember trying to watch this guy and figure out which one he was.”

That was Chris Schultz’s rookie year in Dallas. The six-foot-eight left tackle would go on to play an incredible 12 years in pro football, nine with the Toronto Argonauts.

Schultz was twice named a league All-Star and hoisted the Grey Cup in 1991. He was named to the Argonauts’ All-Time Team in 2007, but for most fans he is best remembered as the mountain behind a desk, one of the cornerstones of the CFL on TSN panel since its debut in 1998.

“I don’t know anybody who loved their job more than Chris Schultz did. I mean, he worked hard at it,” Naylor said. “He was the kind of guy who knew he had to work hard to be good at it. He wasn’t a guy who could just wing it from watching some film and scribbling a couple of things down.”

Over the course of more than 20 years in broadcasting, Schultz became a fixture of both NFL and CFL coverage, appearing on some of the game’s biggest stages. It’s something Naylor says he never took for granted.

“I can remember at least one instance where he was seated in the media section of Super Bowl, a few feet away from where I was. It was about 20 minutes before kickoff and I got a text and it just said ‘I feel incredibly lucky and special right now’,” Naylor shared.

“You know, you always wonder when you see people on television, do they realize how lucky they are to be able to do what they do? Chris did every single day and he told you about it.”

Gone far too soon at the age of 61, Naylor believes the impact of of Schultz’ passing should cause us to reflect on the ways we can honour such titans of the game.

Despite his status as the greatest left tackle in Argos history, Schultz is not enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Naylor believes it’s his three and a half years with the Dallas Cowboys that has caused him to be passed over, a full quarter of his career that does not come in to consideration when voting.

Naylor and Hall of Fame media member Steve Simmons have lobbied to change those criteria, but it will sadly be too late for Schultz.

“Why should we punish a Canadian football player, born and raised in this country, who played high school football in this country, because for three and a half years, he was good enough that the Dallas Cowboys wanted him? Obviously, what Chris did in those years would have been good enough to be playing in the Canadian Football League,” Naylor asked.

“We’ve made this an issue with the CFL, with the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, and said we need to recognize Canadian players on the body of their work in football, no matter what side of the border it happens on, rather than just saying if you played the NFL, we’re going to pretend it didn’t exist.”

While as many as six Canadians could be drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft, during Schultz’ stint with the Cowboys he was one of just six players from north of the border in the entire league and just the 13th Canadian drafted in NFL history.

Those are important accomplishments not recognized by the Hall of Fame, something that stands in stark contrast to Schultz, a man who loved both league’s deeply and never picked favourites.

“Unfortunately, sometimes there’s a political element that gets into any conversation about the CFL and NFL. Chris never went there and I think that came across because he was as proud of his years playing in the CFL as he was of his year playing in the NFL,” Naylor explained.

“He never had a need to compare or contrast. He just treated them both absolutely straight up.”