03/21/2012 11:47 EDT | Updated 05/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown retires

WINNIPEG - Doug Brown's skill and six-foot-eight frame have helped keep the Winnipeg Blue Bombers anchored for 11 seasons.

But the sudden death of friend and defensive line coach Richard Harris last summer made him realize it was time to call it quits.

"When Richard passed last season I knew I'd never play another season of professional football," Brown said as he officially announced his retirement Wednesday. "That was definitely a defining point, when we lost our coach, that I knew I'd never suit up and play professional football again, just out of respect and my obligation to that great man."

Harris, 63, died of a heart attack on July 26 after collapsing at Canad Inns Stadium.

Brown's announcement wasn't a surprise. He had said last fall that he believed 2011 was probably his final season.

Expected or not, his departure still marks a major sea change for the Bombers.

The 37-year-old Port Moody, B.C., native was an eight-time divisional all-star and the CFL's outstanding Canadian in 2001. Bombers general manager Joe Mack and head coach Paul LaPolice both said he'll be missed.

"Doug was always the consummate professional, extremely hard- working," said Mack.

Brown started his pro career in the NFL before spending 11 seasons in Canada, all with Winnipeg. In those 11 seasons he missed a just 12 games.

Brown leaves the team second on its all-time tackles list with 429 and is third on the all-time quarterback sack list with 52.

"There was never a time when I ever questioned Doug's intensity or his willingness to try and make us a championship calibre team," said Mack. "Our only regret is we never got a chance to give Doug a Grey Cup sendoff."

The Bombers lost to the B.C. Lions in last year's CFL championship game.

LaPolice said Brown has always been a game-changer and a dominant player.

"He was one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league, no matter what his nationality," he said.

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon offered a video tribute.

"As a fan I'm going to miss watching you battle it out in the trenches, plugging the holes, sacking quarterbacks and really rallying the great Bomber defence," he said.

But as commissioner, he said he would miss what Brown represented as a champion of the CFL through his actions in the community and the media.

Tributes also poured in via Twitter from fans and players alike.

"The best DT in CFL history retires today," tweeted Don Oramasionwu of the Edmonton Eskimos. "Lucky to have learned from a legend I my first 3 years in the league."

Brown said he will continue to write for the Winnipeg Free Press and work on radio station CJOB but he will also be making guest appearances on TSN's CFL panel. He said there has been some talk of a role with the Bombers as well.

"Some people say I'll miss the locker-room but it always smelled really bad in there," he said, earning a laugh.

"It's cliche to say you'll miss your teammates and the people you play with . . . To me the biggest thing I miss is there's a big void right now in my life in terms of my attachment to this football team."

He was asked what Harris might have said had he been in the room Wednesday.

"He'd just be back there chuckling, probably coming up with some chant about 'It used to be one more year two years ago'. . . He wouldn't need a microphone that's for sure"

But then Brown corrected that.

"He'd have a place up here at the front with these two gentlemen with the Winnipeg football club. . . This would have been something we would have done together, for sure."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version reported that Brown played 15 years in the CFL with Calgary and Winnipeg.