Despite Jason Maas’s disastrous experience in once trying to quarterback the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, his trip to the Steel City for Saturday’s game brings up some of his best football memories.
Not because of what the Ticats didn’t accomplish in 2006 or 2007 when Maas was pulling the trigger under centre, but rather the chance it gave the now Saskatchewan Roughrider offensive coordinator to connect with the greatest player in the 100-plus year history of the Riders.
THE Ronnie Lancaster took over as Ticats head coach a month into the season after a dreadful 0-4 start to the Maas era in Steeltown.
Despite having grown up in the United States where CFL players aren’t exactly household names, Maas knew exactly who Lancaster was and how big a deal it was to be his quarterback.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Maas said without hesitation when asked if he fully appreciated the ‘Little General’ and his legendary status even as a bright-eyed 30-year-old athlete from Wisconsin.
“When I was traded to Hamilton and was able to walk in that building and meet Ron for the first time, knowing Hugh [Campbell] for as long as I did in Edmonton, those guys were peas in a pod. So, you knew what kind of guy you’re getting to deal with and I was excited about that,” Maas said.
“Him taking over as a head coach midway through my first year in Hamilton, sitting down in an office after he watched a practice and he wanted to pick my brain about the practice and what I was seeing.”
“It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed my time with him and being coached by him and being a part of the organization that he represented and had won a championship.”
Maas admits he’s still in awe of the Lancaster statue outside of his office at Mosaic Stadium, especially since once upon a time, Maas was Lancaster’s quarterback.
“When I see it every day I walk out, I definitely notice it every single day,” Maas said.
“I think they also used to have a big picture of him on the old stadium too so I know that name, I have a lot of respect for it, always good when you see stuff like that.”
“And the late Ron Lancaster Jr. coached me as well in Edmonton, so that family I’m very familiar with and have a ton of respect for that name in our league.”
Maas and the Ticats did improve under Lancaster, who was lured out of retirement with a cushy advisor role in the Hamilton front office to take over from Canadian university coach Greg Marshall after an 0-4 start.
But wins over a good Calgary squad and so-so Winnipeg crew wouldn’t be enough to save a season already headed for disaster by the time Lancaster took over and was doomed to a 4-14 last place finish.
Still, Maas doesn’t remember it as a nightmare at all.
“I’ll definitely always cherish those moments with a legend like that.”