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Ex-Alouettes Cahoon, Okeke, Buono among new Canadian Hall of Fame inductees

09/20/2014 09:00 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:02 EDT
MONTREAL - There has not been much to cheer at Montreal Alouettes games this season, but that will change this week when Ben Cahoon returns as one of seven new inductees in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

The gritty little receiver who combined with quarterback Anthony Calvillo to set Canadian Football League records will be honoured with six other inductees Sunday when the Calgary Stampeders visit the Alouettes in the Hall of Fame game at Percival Molson Stadium.

"Every time I get near that field I get chills," Cahoon said as the group received their Hall of Fame jackets.

He was to be inducted at a gala Saturday night along with former Alouettes offensive tackle Uzooma Okeke and linebacker/punter Wally Buono, now general manager and vice president of the B.C. Lions.

Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Charles Roberts, Edmonton Eskimos fullback Neil Lumsden, old-time Ottawa Rough Riders tackle and kicker Moe (The Toe) Racine and university coach Larry Haylor were also to be inducted.

The diminutive Cahoon was one of the most popular players ever in Montreal red, white and blue, making a then-record 1,017 catches for 13,296 yards in his 13 seasons, many of them in heavy traffic over the middle.

The 42-year-old played in eight Grey Cup games, winning three, and holds the record of 47 career Grey Cup catches.

"The main reason was being surrounded by a fantastic offensive line my whole career and Anthony Calvillo," said Cahoon. "We were lucky for a decade-plus to have that: a lot of stability on the line, great talent and work ethic, and the best in the business with Anthony."

Cahoon was born in Utah to Canadian parents and spent part of his childhood living in various Alberta towns, which was enough to give him non-import status.

That likely was why a smaller-than-average, not terribly fast receiver got a chance to play in the CFL. But once he got in the game, he proved himself quickly.

"I felt a few times that saved my job, but at the same time, I felt I proved I could have played as an American, too," he said. "Some people didn't consider me a legit Canadian. I would debate that till the sun goes down."

Cahoon, who now sells medical equipment in Salt Lake City, nearly came back to Montreal as an assistant coach this year, but a few factors didn't play out to make it happen, including GM Jim Popp not getting the head coaching job.

He had coached receivers at his alma mater, Brigham Young, after retiring as a player before being let go in 2012 when they changed offensive co-ordinators.

Okeke, a six-time CFL all-star, played for Montreal from 1997 to 2006 after earlier stops in Shreveport and Ottawa. He is now football operations assistant and a scout for the Alouettes.

"I remember winning the Grey Cup (in 2002), the parade," the 44-year-old said. "I remember Mike Pringle rushing for 2,000 yards.

"I remember running around town when I was a rookie. My first daughter was born in Montreal. There are a lot of good memories."

Buono, who went into the Hall as a builder, grew up in Montreal, played from 1973 to 1983 for the Alouettes and began his coaching career with them, but he made his mark on the CFL as a head coach in Calgary and B.C.

Mostly, he is known for developing a spectacular string of quarterbacks including Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia, Dave Dickenson, Danny Barrett, Henry Burris, Travis Lulay and Casey Printers.

Buono coached 13 years in Calgary, posted a 153-79-2 record, and won three Cups. He coached the Lions from 2003 to 2011 and added two more Cups. He passed Don Matthews for the most coaching wins in CFL history with 254.

"I'm going to say this: I always believed that Don Matthews was the best coach in this league," said Buono. "I don't measure it by wins.

"Don did it a certain way. He set the standard for great coaching. The fact that I coached a year longer than him gave me a few more wins, I guess."

Roberts was a quick little back who owned the Blue Bombers record book for rushing, including most career yards with 9,987 and most rushing touchdowns with 64. In his career, he carried 1,918 times for 10,285 yards and 69 TDs.

"When you start playing football, you never envision being inducted into a hall of fame," he said. "It's a league with great history and to be part of that is very special to me. I'm humbled by it."

Roberts returned home to Anaheim, Calif., after his career, and now has a day job and does some coaching on the side.

"It's funny because I was known as a coach killer," he said with a laugh. "Maybe not a coach killer, but a guy that might have caused some little difficulties in the offices. But working with kids. Trying to give back. You miss the sport."

Lumsden got the nod for his university career. He helped the Ottawa Gee Gees to an 11-0 season and Vanier Cup in 1975. And for his CFL accomplishments. He won four Grey Cups, three with Edmonton and another as GM of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Then he became a university coach, currently at Guelph.

What he was best known for was being a rare Canadian to play in the backfield.

"When I came out of Ottawa, I don't think there were any Canadian running backs," he said. "Typically, Canadian kids moved to tight end or slotback.

"In Toronto, Russ Jackson was my first head coach, and he put me at fullback and I got the opportunity and played well. So maybe that tipped the balance so that Canadians could play that position. There were lots of great ones after me. I maybe kicked the door open a bit."

Racine waited decades for the Hall of Fame call. The three-time Eastern all-star played 274 games for Ottawa from 1960 to 1974 and had his No. 62 retired by the Rough Riders.

He never kicked in high school, but was asked to do kickoffs and then took over converts and field goals in the early 1960s.

"It's very exciting," he said. "I put it out of my mind many years ago and now it's arrived, so it's exciting for me and my family."

Haylor coached the University of Saskatchewan Huskies from 1971 to 1973, but is best known for guiding the Western Mustangs from 1984 to 2006, winning Vanier Cups in 1989 and 1994. He set a record for CIS coaching victories with 154, and retired with a 178-43-4 record.

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