‘We were blessed to have him here for as long as we did’: Ticats remember legendary Angelo Mosca

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

The current Hamilton Tiger-Cats remembered a legend of the team’s past after Angelo Mosca passed away over the weekend.

Mosca played 12 seasons with Hamilton and is remembered as one of the greatest players in team history. Even after his retirement, as head coach Orlondo Steinauer told the media, Mosca was a constant around the Ticats organization.

“It seems that everybody has their own personal story which just tells you how much impact he’s had. For me personally, from the first time I came into the building when we were still at Jarvis in downtown Hamilton — shoot I heard that cane clicking coming down the hall — he’d always come in there and peek his head in, and if you let him he’d sit there and talk for a half-hour,” Steinauer said.

“He was a steady influence at practice and just always comforting, always comforting having big Ang around. For me personally, he would often leave me a voice mail and just words of encouragement, that sort of thing. We are definitely going to miss him but we were also blessed to have him here for as long as we did.”

Longtime Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence has been with the organization since 2013 and says Mosca was always a presence the players recognized.

“He was like the Godfather, he was the Godfather to us. I remember him at practices always sitting there with his buddies and he would always be like: ’21 come here, come here, come here, come here, you, you’re playing good today, keep it up.’ He was just one of those very stern guys, his history speaks for itself,” Lawrence said.

“He was a first-class man, he was tough as heck. He was one of those guys where it’s like: ‘Oh Angelo’s outside, let’s turn up some more for practices today cause Angelo is watching.’ You want to perform great in front of legends especially when they are so hands-on like that. When you think of Hamilton you think of Angelo Mosca and he’s going to be missed.”

Mosca’s number 68 is one of just two jerseys permanently retired by the club. Known as the meanest player in CFL history, he personified the city’s hard-nosed grit for 12 seasons, first from 1958 to 1959, then again from 1962 until his retirement in 1972.

Steinauer says Mosca was a great example for the Ticats players to look up to.

“He’s just a cornerstone, a rock, somebody you could always look to. For even myself, I didn’t know him as the legendary wrestler or the legendary football player. I just knew him as the guy that was at practice and the great stories that he would tell and then whatever you could find online to read about,” Steinauer explained.

“It was just a blessing to come in contact with him. At this point, when I was around him, he was just so humble and open to any and all questions and he was a great storyteller and he loved the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, so it was great to point to him.”

Mosca was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and remains tied with former teammate John Barrow for a CFL record nine Grey Cup appearances. He would win the trophy five times, four with Hamilton.

Standing six-foot-four and 275 pounds, the Notre Dame product was a monster in the era before official defensive statistics were kept. Mosca was twice the runner-up for the league’s Most Outstanding Lineman award and was selected as an East Division all-star six times. He would later translate his ferocious on-field reputation and nickname of ‘King Kong’ Mosca into a successful pro wrestling career. It is a legacy that Steinauer wants his players to learn from.

“For a lot of people they didn’t know, let’s be honest, a lot of these players just simply didn’t know but that doesn’t mean you can’t study up on somebody so that was an encouragement I had to all our players,” Steinauer said.

Lawrence says Mosca was a great example of what a Ticat should be and they will keep that alive on the field.

“You look at Angelo Mosca and you see the city. The city is built on defence, hard-working, blue-collar, folks. Angelo will let you know what the city was built on anyway,” Lawrence said. “We try to keep upholding that tradition, keep upholding that defence and just hustling and doing the right things.”