My Last Visit with Cal Murphy

Over the weekend, multiple stories were published about the passing of CFL legend Cal Murphy, at the age of 79.  (Here are a couple, done by TSN and Vancouver Sun.)

In the mind of this CFL fan, Cal Murphy will be remembered primarily in the colours of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, despite a lengthy career that saw him employed by five of the league’s eight teams, at one time or another.  In his later years, he and his wife called Regina home, and it wasn’t uncommon to run into him within the confines of Mosaic Stadium.

One of my finest football memories involves a visit with Mr. Murphy himself.

Three or four back, I attended a day of training camp.  That particular June day was quite cool, overcast and windy, and the stands were nearly empty aside from the most insane of fans.  For some increased shelter, the few spectators present had left the bleachers in exchange for standing room at their base, on the very edge of the field.  Hooded and  hunched, I ventured down and stood beside another hooded figure, looking for nothing more than a bit of cover from the wind and a better view of the action on the field.  Imagine my surprise when through my rain-dripped glasses, I see Cal Murphy under the hood next to me.  At this point he was known to be part of the scouting team for the Indianapolis Colts.

We began chatting about the upcoming season, assessing the potential of new draft picks and trade-acquired talents: “Can this guy rebound from injury?”  “Can that guy live up to the expectations he established last season?”  I remember being inwardly thrilled to be chatting football with a living legend.

Moments later, another hunched figure cozied up next to us, greeting Cal as though he knew him personally.  It was none other than Eric Tillman, then-GM of the Riders.   They began to “talk shop”, and for the next twenty minutes or so, I was engaged in the “inside stuff” of CFL football, as the third wheel on this tricycle.  As they exchanged stories about players of years gone by, unofficial scouting reports, and expectations of the coming season (I can still recall them assessing a younger Andy Fantuz, as well as discussing the life of Don Matthews, then employed by the Alouettes.)  Offering less than my two cents, I mainly listened, in quiet wonder at the opportunity to be part of the conversation at all.

When I got home, my wife wondered why I had stayed so long in such poor weather.

Now she knows.

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