Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 70-79

I figured that this would be one of the most difficult sets of numbers in this series. These days numbers in the 70s are reserved for training camp fodder and practice squad players who hope to someday graduate to a “real” number… with a few exceptions. But it turns out that the 70s has a very rich history and features some of the all-time franchise greats.

70 – The franchise may have been around for a long long time but like most things, it was a long wait for the first player to be named Rookie of the Year. It took until 1981 for a young LB Vince Goldsmith to become the first. He would go on to rack up 130.5 sacks over his career. 7th all time in CFL history.

71 – Speaking of prolific pass rushers… the great one in franchise history just happened to wear #71. He holds the team record in sacks, sits 3rd all-time in CFL history with 140 and his rising sun bandana is one of the all-time iconic looks in the league. I’m talking of course about DL Bobby Jurasin.

72 – Another famous defender checks in here. LB Cleveland Vann. 5 seasons with the team and had an interception in the 1976 Grey Cup… it remains one of the few aspects of that game that people from Saskatchewan are willing to talk about.

73 – Prior to tragic plane crash that killed 3 of his teammates DL Gordon Strutridge was a 3 time all-star and viewed as an important piece of the puzzle for a team trying rise to the top of the CFL.

74 – More competition here than you might expect. Keith Shologan wore the number, as did Chris DeFrance, but few embody the heart and soul of the prairies quite like LB Dan Rashovich. He was never an all-star or award winner but was one of the glue guys that worked hard on special teams and stepped on D when needed.

75 – 7 seasons as a Rider, 3 all-star nods and a Grey Cup ring. DL Garner Ekstran takes this number.

76– This is the part of the list where things start getting a bit sketchy. The only notable 76 I found was LB Tyson St James. Who? You might ask. 1st overall pick in 2000, the very first draft pick of GM Roy Shivers. Viewed as a key build block in the new look Riders… and not longer with the team just 2 season later.

77 – Rakim Cox wore the number, and we all know I find that name hilarious. Dan Clark wore 77 when he scored that iconic diving TD reception. Even Dwan Epps wore it. But this one goes to LB Wally Dempsey who spent 7 years with the team over 2 stints and was part of the 66 team.

78 – I scoured for this number and the best I found was DB Jim Cooper… who played 5 games with the Riders in 1999. He makes the list thanks to the 2 sweetest words in the English language: De Fault.

79 – We end on a higher note here. Could have gone with Turell Jurineak but instead going with a different D-lineman, DL Gary Lewis. 2 time western all-star and part of the 89 team.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 60-69

The 60s feature an impressive cast of some of the best Riders ever. It included many of easiest choices in this entire feature. But as always it also featured some questionable inclusions due to a lack of competition

60 – We start today off with the man who has played more games in Green and White than any player in history. With a resume that features 7 straight west all-stars, 5 CFL all-stars and back to back CFL Most Outstanding lineman, he is arguably the best O-lineman to ever play for us. He also has one of the biggest heads in franchise history. OL Gene Makowksy

61 – One of the first big name defensive linemen in franchise history. In his prime he was a force and a game changing presence. DL Ed McQuarters. He had 3 straight CFL all-star nominations and even continued playing years after losing an eye!

62 – 10 year career in green and white manning the tackle position. OL Vic Stevenson was a important piece in the 89 team. He actually won 2 more Grey Cups after leaving the Riders.

63 – So turns out that good players don’t wear 63. There’s Rene Brassea (the greatest Mexican national to ever dress for the green and white). There’s Derek Dennis (who is worthy of recognition… just not for his time here). I was about to give up and declare my first N/A but fortunately I came across OL Scott Hendrickson. His career spanned some pretty bad years for the franchise but at least he has a career worth mentioning.  

64 – This number appears to be for people are great O-lineman but have their best years with teams other than us. Both Dan Comsikey and Dan Goodspeed (aka Dan Badslow) whore 64.  So out of pure necessity I’m giving the nod to OL Dakota Shepley.  I'm sorry there was no one else (something I'm sure one of my readers will correct within minutes of this post going live). I mean… he was in Deadpool.

65 – Okay, back to the super deserving players. One of the best nicknames in Rider history and his play definitely befit his name. DL Bill Baker “the Undertaker”.

66– Another one of the all-time great Rider OL and another local success story. OL Mike Anderson played for 11 years and in additional to being a steady presence in the middle of the OL, his resume includes a Grey Cup ring and an all-star nod in 1994.

67 – Anyone who suggests Dan Clark is getting slapped. Look, he’s great story, junior to all-star OL. And who knows, if he keeps playing like he did in 2019, he may yet become deserving of being included here. But for now this one goes to another OL… OL Clyde Brock. A dominating offensive tackle who was an all-star in 4 consecutive seasons. Ask George Reed how much he liked playing behind Brock.

68 – Looking back on the Rider O-line in the Shivers era, the level of talent was unreal. Gene Makowsky, Jeremy O’Day, Fred Childress and OL Andrew Greene. 3 of those guys won CFL Most Outstanding lineman awards, 1 would have had he not been playing alongside such big name guys…. And the other guy was Charles Thomas (cue sad trombone music). For all his greatness, Greene was commemorated by Wisers with this outstanding bobblehead.

69 – If you didn’t just pause for childish laughter after reading this number, I’m not sure we can be friends. Fred Childress (the Big Chill) was a consideration but his best years were in Calgary. So I’m ending today’s list instead with a guy who was named a west all-star in 3 of his 5 Riders season… and  was a professional wrestle who fought Jake the Snake Roberts at WrestleMania 2. DL George Wells.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 50-59

We have hit the halfway point of our journey through the greatest players by number. My hope is that at some point I’ll be able to transition to talking about real football but I guess we’ll just have to see.

We are into the 50s which means we are starting to talk about a lot of linemen (something this franchise has a proud history of).

50 – Starting off with a controversial one. Any Rider historian or fan over the age of 45 will point immediately to Wayne Shaw. Not to diminish what a great career Shaw had but this one has to go to LB Jerrell Freeman. Simply put he was one of the most talented players I have every watched. He would fly around the field and always find himself around the ball. He went from an unknown Div 3 player, to a outstanding Rider to an NFL starter. He was unreal to watch.

51 – First name that came to mind was Chunky Adams. Now, I like Chunky for a lot of reasons but had a hard time calling him the greatest. The bar didn’t go a lot higher but OL John Terry gets this one. He was named an all-star twice in his 5 year tenure with the Riders.

52 – Cliff Shaw was an option but I’m sticking with the O-line theme and going OL Wayne Smith. He did not have a particularly long Rider career but he was a top end starting OL that helped put this team over the hump in 2007. He is also part of one of the greatest trades in Rider history… when the Ti-Cats just gifted us everything we needed in exchange for Rocky Butler.

53 – This one was a no brainer. It goes to one of the most unique combinations in all of sports… that being the combination starting O-lineman/Placekicker. Yes you heard me right! OL Jack Abendschan. Not only did he play O-line at an all-star level he also kicked field goals. I don’t think we will even see anything even remotely similar again.

54 – I’ll give him minor demerit points for not being able to kick a FG but for 10 years OL Jeremy O’Day was a rock solid presence in the middle of our OL. He’s arguably the best centre in franchise history.

55 and 56– Doing this in combination as the story is the exact same. Both Mario DeMarco and Ray Syrnyk were top end OL who had their careers ended much too early in a tragic plane crash.

57 – One of the toughest choices of this whole thing. Two Saskatchewan Products. Two talented linemen. Two Grey Cup Champions. Two tough SOBs. Bob Poley is probably more iconic but I’m given I slight edge to OL Brendon LaBatte. He is a 5 time all-star and has won Lineman of the Year. He also had to overcome getting that Winnipeg stink off of him… which is no small accomplishment.

58 – Shonte Peoples anyone? Come on, he was in Frontlyne. Plus he made things interesting off the field. Ok fine. I’ll go with someone who played alongside Labatte. OL Xavier Fulton. In his prime, I don’t think he got credit for how good he was at tackle. Fun fact: we acquired him from Edmonton for a 6th round pick.

59 – I did want to give this to Jocelyn Frenette for being a solid long snapper and excelling as the designated “fake an injury after the convert on a defensive or special teams touchdown so the guys can catch their breath" guy. But OL Ralph Galloway takes this one. 5 straight western all-stars and 2 time CFL all-star.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 40-49

After a brief 1 week hiatus, we are back continuing our look at the greatest Riders by number. I’d offer an explanation for my lack of posting last week but… screw it we are in quarantine I don’t think my lack of effort on any particular day requires an explanation. I'm just impressed I'm wearing pants.

We are now into the 40s.

40 – If you are one of the 8 players in franchise history to have your number retired, you are worthy of being up on the list. Mel Beckett was one of the 4 Rider players to die in a plane crash coming back from the all-star game in Vancouver. It was a tragedy that set this franchise back many years on the field.

41 – Some notables here such as Fred Perry who did some great things aside from getting into business with Marcus Crandell. Of course recently Tyron Brackenridge set a pretty high standard. But this one has to go to DL Ron Atchison. A dominating defensive player for an amazing 17 seasons as a Rider. Also one of the few guys whose most infamous stories involves a pair of hush puppy shoes.

42 – This one was a tough one. Larry Bird was an option (the lineman not the Celtics great). Just spend 3 seasons watching Derrick Moncrief dominate. But even an impact player like Moncrief isn’t quite up to the standard set by LB Eddie Lowe. 9 years as a Rider including a Grey Cup ring and an all-star nod in 1989.

43 – One thing the Riders have in spades is a history of great O-linemen. OL Ted Urness was one of the forerunners in that legacy. He was an all-star at centre for 6 straight years! He has also been inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

44 – No brainer right here… OL Roger Aldag. A local Saskatchewan product who went on to play in 17 season, the second most games in franchise history, a 5 time all-star, a 9 time team nominee for top OL and 2 time CFL Most Outstanding OL. One of the best players in the history of the franchise.

45 – While some would disagree, an argument could be made here for Mike McCullough. He is one of 3 players in franchise history with 2 Grey Cup rings as a player. But I think if you look at impact on the franchise, this one has to go to QB Glen Dobbs. He was a big part of the early rise of the Riders' popularity in the province.

46 – Going to go with a completely personal choice and give it to LB Kitwana Jones. He was never a star but he remains one of my favourite players ever. Just one of those high energy high effort guys that are a staple of any great team. Great on special teams, rotational depth at LB. Hell he even happily took on being a defensive tackle when Etchverry stupidly lined him up there. While looking back on his career I was reminded of how we traded him to Edmonton in 2009 for QB Juan Joseph. That really worked well.

47 – Out of principle I wanted to give this to Mo Lloyd purely to piss off my buddy Rob. While Lloyd is certainly a worthy candidate based on his play in ’06 and ’07. I’m actually going to give this one to a different linebacker. I really don’t think we fully appreciated how good LB Sam Eguavoen was. An impact player who is deservedly now playing in the NFL.

48 – The trip down linebacker memory lane continues with LB Rey Williams. Played his early CFL years here and came back to be a key part of the defense in the 2013 championship year. Dude could fly around the field.

49 – The first name that came to mind for me was Jeff Knox and while I was a Knox fan I assumed that if I kept digging, I would find someone to supplant him… I did not.  So LB Jeff Knox it is. He was one of the few bright spots on some dismal teams in 2015 and 2016.