GREY CUP FLASHBACKS | CORY PHILPOT
Matt Baker – BC Lions
On back-to-back memorable Sundays in late November of 1994, Cory Philpot knew he had officially arrived in Canada.
The first realization came in the Lions’ thrilling last second victory in the Western Final at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium. The snow starting falling at halftime, and the native Floridian was about to encounter playing elements he had never even thought about, much less experienced.
“All of a sudden you’re trying to put on the right equipment and hoping your shoes are going to hold up on ice,” Philpot recalled.
“Everyone knows running on ice is not fun. It came down pretty good that they had to bring out the snow blowers and draw lines for us. You look back and go ‘wow, I can’t believe I actually played in that.’”
The frigid conditions looked to play a huge factor when Philpot’s 4th quarter fumble gave Doug Flutie and the Stampeders a chance to potentially put the game out of reach- and book a ticket to the Grey Cup in the Lions’ backyard- before perhaps the biggest sequence in franchise history took place.
“I am thinking ‘oh god, I have just lost the game for my team.’ The defence goes out, holds them to a field goal attempt and then Ray Alexander blocks it. We turn around and execute that drive.”
The Danny McManus to Darren Flutie touchdown on the final play can no doubt still be considered the greatest play in franchise history. Not many can recall Philpot’s fumble allowed Alexander to make his big special teams play and set them up on their own 43-yard line for the winning drive.
Fast-forward one week and Philpot officially had his first real taste of Canadian patriotism when they aimed to defy the odds and beat a very formidable Baltimore team in front of a packed house at BC Place.
“We decided that we we’re all Canadians. We we were going to keep the Cup in Canada,” he said.
“The biggest thing we all talk about was the fact that year Baltimore didn’t abide by the rules. They came in with all American players and no Canadian players. We grew as a team to say that we were going to win that Grey Cup as a Canadian squad.”
The Baltimore Football Club proved to be as stingy as advertised, holding the Lions offence to just one touchdown and four Lui Passaglia field goals. Their other major came on a 17-yard interception return by Charles Gordon on Baltimore quarterback Tracy Ham.
The final Passaglia field goal is the only one everybody remembers: a 37-yarder as time expired to complete the remarkable Cinderella run and give the franchise its third Grey Cup and first since 1985. Philpot can still feel the same goose bumps today.
“Like anybody, you’re shocked, sitting there with your fingers crossed and hoping he would make it,” he recalled.
“You always have to believe in Lui. He was always an accurate kicker. It was just one of those nervous feelings where you were waiting and sweating. Do you close your eyes? Do you open your eyes? You weren’t exactly sure what you wanted to do. Once it went through it was just a big joy knowing we had done it.”
What happened after the kick split the uprights was pure bedlam. Fans stormed the field to celebrate, ultimately preventing Philpot and his teammates the chance for an on field trophy celebration.
“People were all over you, grabbing you, shaking your hand and all that stuff,” Philpot chuckled.
Looking back on it, the running back knew beating Calgary gave them the confidence they could in fact win it all.
“That was the turning point for us. We knew that we had the Gods in our favour and it was our destiny to go and win that Grey Cup.”
Philpot still calls Surrey home. He continues to serve as President of All-Star Youth Sport, an outlet that provides under privileged kids a chance to play the game. His twin sons Jalen and Tyson just had their BC High School Provincial Championship dreams come to an end when the Terry Fox Ravens beat their Seaquam Seahawks last weekend.
“Quick Six” also remains on the Board of Directors for Football BC, and will serve as offensive coordinator for an all-star team that will take on some of the best American players at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, in January’s International Bowl. Yes, he is still very much passionate about the game in this country. The 1994 experience was a big catalyst for him in that regard.
“I’ve been living in Canada for almost 27 years, so I consider Canada my home. We were able to go out and show that we do have great athletes here, and that we can compete. That’s a question we get a lot of: are Canadians good enough to do and play down south? I believe we have a lot of great athletes here in Canada. I think that a lot of American universities should be coming up here and looking at these kids because there is a great pool of talent.”
Picture courtesy of the BC Lions