Breakfast with Pinball

He was one of the most popular players in the history of the Canadian Football League. And he’ll draw a crowd – a sellout one – at the Timberwolves Legacy Breakfast on Wednesday morning at the Northern Sport Centre.

Michael “Pinball” Clemons, a four-time Grey Cup champion with the Toronto Argonauts, is the keynote speaker for the breakfast. The event is a fundraiser for UNBC athletics and starts at 7 a.m.

Tickets were $75 each or were sold in a package ($600 for a table of eight). All passes – a total of about 415 – were gone by last week.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said UNBC athletics director Loralyn Murdoch. “I think last week there was some question as to where we were going to sit with numbers but the community really pulled through. I think we sold probably 10 tables last week, a lot of them being community tables for youth to attend. It’s been unbelievably good.”

Clemons, who was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2008, will deliver a speech entitled Winning Against The Odds. His audience will be in for a treat.

“I’ve looked at some of his stuff and I’ve talked to some people and he’s an unbelievably good speaker,” Murdoch said. “I think he’s going to highly motivate the audience. People talk about his ability to empower and to lead and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Clemons won his first three Grey Cups as an Argonauts running back (1991, 1996, 1997) and his fourth as the team’s head coach (2004). Currently, he’s vice-chairman of the Argos.

Clemons, who stands just five-foot-six, was given the nickname “Pinball” in 1989 by Tom Cudney, who was a guest running backs coach with the Argonauts. Cudney attached the moniker to Clemons because of the diminutive rookie’s ability to bounce his way through would-be tacklers. Clemons quickly became a fan favourite in Toronto and was chosen as the CFL’s most outstanding player in 1990, a year in which he set a new league record for regular-season all-purpose yards (3,300). Clemons broke that mark in 1997 when he racked up 3,840 yards on offence.

Clemons ended his CFL playing career in September of 2000. In 12 years as an Argonaut, he amassed 25,438 combined regular-season yards, a mark that established a CFL record.

Clemons, a product of Dunedin, Fla., became Argonauts interim head coach part way through the 2000 season and remained head coach until 2007. Along with the Grey Cup victory in 2004, he guided the team to a 68-55-1 regular-season record.

Money raised by the Legacy Breakfast will go toward scholarships and bursaries for UNBC student-athletes.

As part of the fundraising effort, an Island Getaway door prize valued at $3,000 will be up for grabs. The package includes: two roundtrip tickets from Prince George to Victoria, courtesy of Pacific Coastal Airlines; two nights at the Prestige Hotels & Resorts Oceanfront Resort in Sooke; two passes to Bear Mountain Golf Club’s Valley Course; two passes to Butchart Gardens; and a one-year adult membership to the Northern Sport Centre.

Breakfast attendees can make a tax-deductible donation to get into the draw for the door prize. However, a donation is not a requirement.

Murdoch said the university has pledged to match day-of donations, up to a total of $15,000.

This is the second annual Timberwolves Legacy Breakfast. Once again, Canadian Tire is the presenting sponsor.

Last year’s inaugural event – held at the Ramada hotel and featuring keynote speaker Hayley Wickenheiser – raised more than $40,000. The goal this year is to reach $50,000.

At Wednesday’s breakfast, an announcement will be made regarding the establishment of two new athletic awards at UNBC – the Matt Pearce Athletic Scholarships. Each award will be worth $1,000 and will be handed out on a yearly basis.


Pearce, a 1990 Grey Cup champion with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and a huge supporter of football and basketball in Prince George, died on Jan. 23 of a heart-related issue. He was 48 years old.
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