NEWS
07/27/2011 02:48 EDT | Updated 09/26/2011 05:12 EDT

Veteran offensive lineman Makowsky closing in on another CFL milestone

REGINA - He has a Grey Cup ring, twice received the CFL's outstanding lineman award and five times been named a league all-star.

On Saturday night, Gene Makowsky will move closer to yet another career milestone.

REGINA - He has a Grey Cup ring, twice received the CFL's outstanding lineman award and five times been named a league all-star.

On Saturday night, Gene Makowsky will move closer to yet another career milestone.

The 17-year veteran offensive lineman will appear in his 271st career game when the Saskatchewan Roughriders square off against the Calgary Stampeders. That will move him into a tie with perennial all-star guard Roger Aldag for the most appearances in Riders' history.

"I'm not much for individual stats or anything like that," Makowsky told reporters Wednesday. "I guess any time you're mentioned with Roger Aldag you're doing something right.

"If I could measure up to him in any way, it's a good thing for myself."

Riders head coach Greg Marshall was a longtime defensive co-ordinator in the CFL before taking the top job in Saskatchewan and said he had a simple message for his players whenever they lined up opposite of Makowsky.

"My line, whenever we played Gene was he might be old enough to be your dad but he can still kick your ass," Marshall said. "When you start talking about guys being in Roger Aldag's company, you're talking icon, so it's pretty impressive.

"They obviously both were very talented guys, both very tough individuals. To play as long as they did in the trenches, you have to be a tough man and they weren't really outspoken guys. They went about doing their business and when you played against either one of those guys you better have packed your lunch because it's going to be a long day."

A bigger concern for the six-foot-three, 270-pound Makowsky, though, is helping Saskatchewan build upon its timely 27-24 victory Sunday over the Montreal Alouettes. The win was the first of the season for the Riders (1-3) and came on the heels of a lopsided 33-3 road loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"I love football ... when you win there's no feeling like it," he said. "I know it will be tough to replicate that when I'm done football but those are the kinds of things I still enjoy about the game."

The 38-year-old native of Saskatoon was a second-round pick, No. 23 overall, by the Riders out of the University of Saskatchewan in 1995. Makowsky said there are a few keys to his longevity in the CFL.

"Obviously, you have to stay healthy so I've been extremely fortunate that way," he said. "I've had great teammates that helped me along.

"This is certainly not an individual sport and I'm here because of the great teammates I've had over the years as well as the good coaching."

The win Sunday also held special significance for Marshall as it was his first as a CFL head coach. But such talk meant little to Marshall as he mourned the loss of a very good friend.

On Tuesday afternoon in Winnipeg, Blue Bombers assistant head coach Richard Harris collapsed and later died in hospital of a heart attack at age 63. Marshall and Harris had worked previously together in Manitoba.

"I never had a big brother," an emotional Marshall, the oldest of seven children, said Wednesday. "He was my big brother.

"There's been a lot of great people go through Winnipeg — executives, coaches, players. But I don't think there's anybody who had a larger impact."

Riders linebacker Barrin Simpson, who also played previously in Winnipeg, echoed Marshall's sentiments. Simpson spoke regularly with Harris even after moving to Saskatchewan in 2010.

"He was a dear friend of mine," said Simpson. "He was much like a father figure to me.

"He had unbelievable respect from everybody. He was an overwhelming presence. We knew he cared like no other. It's been emotional for me all day long. I can't imagine what it must be like for them (Bombers)."

Roughriders offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry served as Winnipeg's head coach from 2006-'08 and hired Harris as the club's defensive line coach. He said Harris's influence and reputation extended well beyond the Winnipeg organization.

"He probably knew half the city of Winnipeg," Berry said. "It's very sad. When I hired Richard there, I never really knew the man I was hiring. I had no idea at first what a wonderful man he was in so many respects.