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Inside the CFL: Call to the Hall

Ted Michaels, CFL Editor

Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - Damon Allen knew the question was coming.

The Cal State Fullerton product played 23 years in the Canadian Football League, with stops in Edmonton, Ottawa, Hamilton, Memphis, BC and Toronto.

Allen is a four-time Grey Cup champion, two-time Grey Cup MVP, Grey Cup Offensive Player of the Game, an East Division and CFL All-Star and was the 2005 CFL Most Outstanding Player.

On Sunday, Allen, along with six others, was named as a 2012 inductee into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum, located in Hamilton.

Last year, Allen, the younger brother of former NFL great Marcus Allen, was a first time nominee for election to the hall and didn't get elected.

In a conference call Monday, it wasn't too long before the question was asked: Did he feel he should have been elected last year?

"I think back to the initial stage of not being voted in, especially when you don't understand the criteria of how the voting is, the reason I didn't say much was I decided to let the fans and everyone else say their piece," Allen said.

"When it's all said and done, when they had the list of the top 50 CFL players of all-time, and I was voted one of the top 13, and there's 14 first-time Hall of Famers, that alone should say I'm at least better than one of those guys," he laughed.

"It does make it special because when you look at what I've been able to do, at 157 pounds when I first came into the league, I learned a lot from many of the great players that played the game."

Allen was pro football's all-time passing leader until his mark was surpassed last weekend by Anthony Calvillo. He told the media he broke other records, so it was only fair that Calvillo broke his.

"When you think about being a record-holder you know that records are to be broken," said Allen. "What was so special was that I was involved in three record-breaking ceremonies, the first one when I broke Ron Lancaster's record and he held it for 22 seasons, so it really shows the progression of where the game is today, and how much they're throwing the football, also for the Warren Moon record (most yardage combined both CFL and NFL) and then Anthony Calvillo's. So, it does make it unique. Kudos to Anthony for what he's been able to do."

Joining Allen in the players category is Milt Stegall, who revolutionized the slotback position in the CFL and was an all-star six times including in 2002, when he rewrote the single season record book for receivers and was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player.

He holds several Winnipeg Blue Bomber and CFL records, including most career touchdowns (147).

Like many U.S.-born players, Stegall was just happy to get a chance to play in Canada.

"I never thought I'd be inducted into the Hall of Fame," Stegall said. "I was just happy when I got to the CFL to be playing receiver. When I was with the Cincinnati Bengals for three years, I was a special teams guy, on and off the roster. When I arrived in Winnipeg in 1995, and played my first game in Calgary, it was cold on the turf, but I was just happy to play receiver."

Also being inducted, is Jack Abendschan, who played offensive line and was the place kicker for the Saskatchewan Roughriders from 1965 to 1975. He was a CFL All Star five times, played in four Grey Cup games and was a member of Saskatchewan's first Grey Cup championship team in 1966.

"Any kind of honor, you share with the guys you played with," said Abendschan. "It's not an individual sport, and I'm just thankful that I can be rewarded in this way for the work I put into it. I'm just thankful grateful and blessed."

Two other players will join Allen, Stegall and Abendschan.

Eric Lapointe, a former CFL player with Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal, is being inducted because of his university football career with the Mount Allison Mounties, which established him as one of the greatest CIAU running backs of all-time, and a two-time winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy as the Most Outstanding Player in the CIAU.

Tyrone Jones, who will be inducted posthumously after passing away in 2008, was known as one of the best linebackers in CFL history, winning two Grey Cups and holding the Winnipeg Blue Bomber record for most sacks in a career with 98.

The builders category will have two names added.

David Braley, a Hamilton entrepreneur and philanthropist who has owned three CFL teams -- the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, British Columbia Lions and Toronto Argonauts -- over a 20 year period, has served as chair of the CFL's Board of Governors and stepped in as the league's interim commissioner from March to November, 2002.

Braley said his days as the owner of both the Lions and Argos are slowly coming to an end.

"I just turned 70 years of age this year, and I've said in the media in Vancouver that by the time I'm 75, I hope to have both teams in other people's hands, to people who care for the game and care for it like I do; with a passion," he said. "It'll be more important about the hands the teams end up in, than the money received for the franchise."

Peter Connellan was one the most successful coaches ever at the University of Calgary and in Canadian Interuniversity Sports. He never coached a team with a losing record, led his team to eight Canada West Championships and four Vanier Cup Championships.

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter, on AM 900 CHML.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Ted Michaels at ted@900chml.com.

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