The BC Lions recently got hold of that coveted 2nd place in the West Division after defeating the returning Grey Cup Champions, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. They have one regular season game left (they just having defeated the Elks 31 to 14, as of this writing), and are hopeful for the best, as are BC Lions fans everywhere.
The team is even hopeful, again as of this writing, about a possible return of Nathan Rourke after an injury that has kept him out of action since August. He really did have a great season up until that point, and kind of got me thinking about some of the greats from the past. Although Rourke is indeed still young and has a ways to go before he’s at the level of these men, these legends, he is a promising player with an even more promising career ahead of him.
Today, I invite you dear readers on a journey through time and space. Okay, not really, but how about we reminisce a tad and look back at 8 BC Lions…some of the best to ever wear the BC Lions colors…? And oh, these aren’t arranged in any particular order; they’re all great.
Mr. Passaglia played an unbelievable 25 seasons with the BC Lions as placekicker…which was the entirety of his CFL career as a player. That’s loyalty, folks. And to show that loyalty even more, he stayed on with the Lions as Director of Community Relations from 2001 to 2007…after he retired from playing in 2000.
He is a 3-time Grey Cup Champ, and a 4-time CFL All-Star. He is a BC Sports Hall of famer and a Lions Wall of famer. It was a few years back that the legend had to say this when looking back on a legendary career:
“You never forget that…Looking back at 25 years, I made a lot of friends and a lot of them are still my friends now. That’s the main thing. Sometimes you think about certain games in the 25 years, but the more important thing is the personal connections you had with people during your career…
Every time you’re mentioned along with the team in any form after your career is over it makes you think of your career and what you’ve done, the people you’ve played with and the people you’ve worked for…
It’s all-encompassing. It’s always neat to be recognized in one fashion or another and to be associated with the team in one fashion or another. Even though you’re not playing you still feel a part of it.”
He was diagnosed with colon cancer back in 2013/14 but thankfully it went into remission the following year, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. He has been active in raising awareness for the disease.
Al “Dirt” Wilson
Wilson’s #52 Jersey is one of the only eight numbers retired by the BC Lions; a great honor. He played his entire career with the BC Lions, which of course spanned 15 years…from 1972 to 1986. In 1977 he was awarded the award for CFL Most Outstanding Lineman, as well as receiving many other honors in a great career.
A Canadian football hall-of famer, American-born Fleming played his entire career—pro career—for the BC Lions. He played with the team from 1959 to 1966 although he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. At 83, Fleming still works out 3 times a week to keep in shape.
William Norman “Mouse” Fieldgate
Although he was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Fieldgate played the entirety of his career with the BC Lions as well, like the men above. A legendary career it was, and it ran from 1954 to 1967. And it was in 1989 that he also served as president for the team he worked so diligently for as a player. He passed away in 2020 at the age of 88.
Secret to the success of a team…? He made the following statements in 2015, five years before his passing while speaking to vancouverisawesome.com in an interview:
“Finally the Lions were able to get enough players that were with the team long enough for cohesion. By Bailey stayed. Joe Kapp stayed. Willie Fleming stayed. Because individuals weren’t much good to you unless you had them working together.”
-via vancouverisawesome.com (link above)
Perhaps one of the biggest celebrities of the group, Dunigan also has spent time as a TV chef, cooking some mean BBQ. He is now known as a sportscaster for TSN…his TV cooking days on Road Grill are over (he also wrote a cookbook by the way), and perhaps he’ll be the only entry on this list my mom will know. Hi, Mom!! And yes, she tried a few of his recipes…still makes a version of his Ribs to this day in fact.
Dunigan only played with the Lions from 1988 to 1989, but what a season it was…the Lions wouldn’t win the Grey Cup that year, but Dunigan is a Grey Cup champion, in 1987 with Edmonton (Eskimos back then), and in 1991 with the Toronto Argonauts. He also coached the Calgary Stampeders in 2004.
Dunigan has been vocal about the multiple concussions he suffered in his days on the gridiron and is intent on raising awareness for the issue.
No, the legendary football player didn’t stay all that long with the BC Lions, but the stop he made with the team in 1990-91 was a significant stepping stone to quite the career, and it was a legendary one at that as stated—his entire football career.
An incredible NFL career, he playing with many teams that included the Chicago Bears, the New England Patriots, and even the Buffalo Bills, and with the CFL, he was a 3-time Grey Cup champion…and historically he also played with Donald Trump’s New Jersey Generals back in the USFL in the eighties.
He played with the BC Lions from 1961 to 1966. He is a 1964 Grey Cup Champion and yes, with the BC Lions that year. In 1990 he was GM of the team.
In an interview with ESPN from back in 2017, Kapp relived the moment he broke into the Canadian football scene from his native United States. Specifically, he was playing for the University of California back in 1958 and led the team to that year’s Rose Bowl Pacific Coast Conference, but they did lose to Iowa.
He says the following about how he made it to the CFL eventually:
“When I got finished at Cal, (the NFL) didn’t call me. So I went to Canada, to the Calgary Stampeders. The rules of the game aided me. A running quarterback had an advantage. But I kept working on my passes. Kids think improvement happens overnight. That’s not true. You’ve got to get out and work on it. Calgary ended up trading me for four players, to Vancouver. It was a big deal at the time.”
Mr. Young played with two professional football teams his whole career…with the Minnesota Vikings in 1965-66 and then with the BC Lions from 1967 to 1979. He would coach the team in 1990. BC Football Hall of Fame in 2011, and he is a Canadian Football Hall of Famer (1991).
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