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Mike (Pinball) Clemons featured in commemorative 100th Grey Cup stamps series

08/13/2012 05:08 EDT | Updated 10/13/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Once again, Mike (Pinball) Clemons will serve as the face of the Toronto Argonauts franchise.

The longtime Argos player, coach and executive will be featured in a special run of domestic stamps that will celebrate the Grey Cup's 100th anniversary. The historic game will be played at Rogers Centre on Nov. 25.

Canada Post unveiled a series of commemorative 100th Grey Cup stamps on Monday that includes one featuring a memorable occasion for each CFL team, as well as another depicting the Cup itself. Booklets will be available in post offices across the country starting Thursday.

"When I was first asked (to appear on stamp), I was overwhelmed, I actually shed tears because it's one of those things of 'Why me?'" Clemons said. "Then it becomes one of those confidence things, you know, 'I wasn't bad!'

"But when I started to think back about history and all the greats, I suddenly realized it wasn't about me. That's the great thing about our game, it's the ultimate team sport. When I got to the era I played in, I said, 'Hold on. Doug Flutie? Matt Dunigan? Rocket Ismail? Mike O'Shea?' I wasn't even the best player in my era. Why me? Well, I realized I'm just a metaphor.

"I'm here because no one is bigger than the game. Today, I stand on behalf of seven other metaphors across our league, to position ourselves on a stamp that, well, is better represented by the great fans across our country who support our game."

Clemons and CFL commissioner Mark Cohon were both on hand to help unveil the stamps during a news conference at Varsity Stadium.

"Having the Grey Cup honoured, recognized and celebrated on our country's stamps really is tremendous tribute," Cohon said. "It's a salute to the teams and athletes that have played this game for generations and having them on our stamps is a great honour for all of us.

"More than that, I think it's an honour for every Canadian who loves and cherishes and really supports the Grey Cup."

Deepak Chopra, Canada Post's president and chief executive officer, said recognizing and honouring the Grey Cup's rich history is in keeping with the corporation's tradition.

"One of the roles we've played since our inception is preserving the national heritage through our stamps," he said. "We have captured moments, personalities, history and this is another great opportunity to do that.

"We live in the shadow of an 800-pound gorilla called the NFL and for a league to survive and thrive for 100 years is a tribute in itself. I think we owe it to the CFL as Canadians to show all of our passion and I think we've taken that responsibility through our stamps."

The five-foot-six, 170-pound Clemons, currently the Argos' vice chair, will appear on the club's stamp in full uniform carrying the ball. It will also honour the 1950 Grey Cup game at Varsity Stadium affectionately dubbed the Mud Bowl because of the sloppy, wet conditions Toronto and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were forced to play in.

The Argos won the game 13-0.

Clemons, 47, is also no stranger to the Grey Cup as his name appears four times on the historic trophy. The native of Dunedin, Fla., joined the Argos in 1989 and helped them win three Grey Cups as a player and in 2004 as the club's head coach, becoming the first African American head coach in CFL history to claim a league championship.

Clemons' No. 31 jersey is one of only four that has been retired by the Argos. His determination and tenacity on the field are depicted in his nickname, but Clemons' warm, broad smile and pleasant demeanour off it combined to make him one of the city's most popular athletes.

And one of its most appreciative.

"I stand here proudly, not as a player of the Toronto Argonauts but the Toronto Argonauts biggest fan," Clemons said. "I love the game, love the team, I love our league.

"I came here to continue playing, I came for new hope to continue playing the game I love. I found a new home and I reached new heights and the greatest part of that whole thing is the opportunity, the platform, this great game has given me to share with others.

"A great athlete before I once said, 'I am the luckiest man in the world.' While I feel that way, I've actually come to understand if it's me thinking I'm the luckiest, I'm not giving enough credit to the rest of us in Canada. It might be said we are the luckiest people in the world to live in what is one of, if not the, greatest country in the world. This game is great because it's Canadian."

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