PDT Sports Editor
More than four decades ago, Portsmouth native Chuck Ealey led the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League to a thrilling 13-10 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 60th Grey Cup.
Today, Portsmouth product and current Toronto Argonaut practice squad member Gerald Cadogan, who was born 14 years after Ealey’s Grey Cup MVP performance, will be facing the the Calgary Stampeders in the 100th Grey Cup.
The action may be taking place north of the border, but there is no mistaking the origin of either player and how it has played a role in each player reaching the pinnacle game of the CFL’s catalog.
Cadogan’s high school coach Curt Clifford spoke of his former player’s pursuit in the field of professional athletics.
“He and I talked before he left and I told him chase the dream as long as you can,” Clifford said. “He was helping us out at practice and he sent me a text message that said, ‘Coach I’m going to Canada’ and I said do it.”
Cadogan, who was an elite college football prospect at Portsmouth High School and then an All-Big Ten performer at Penn State, saw his career wind through NFL rosters before landing with the Argonauts this season.
He was an off-season or practice squad player with with the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts before a stop in the Arena Football League and the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.
Now he will be with the Argonauts after a brief tenure with the Stampeders in the Super Bowl of the north.
“I’m even happier that it is happening to the person who it is happening to because of the type of guy he is. He is a high character guy,” Clifford said.
The comparison to Ealey is only natural due to the geographical commonalities of the two.
Ealey, who cut his teeth as a quarterback at Notre Dame High School under Hall of Fame prep coach Ed Miller, went on to become a college football Demigod at the University of Toledo and one of the best players in the CFL.
“I didn’t know Chuck, but I definitely knew of him. He never lost in high school or college and to have Gerald mentioned in the same breathe as him means he is running in some fast company,” Clifford said.
The rules of the game and the dimensions of the field may be different in the Canadian game, but Clifford said it takes an inordinate amount of football acumen to reach the highest stage of CFL competition.
“The perseverance and discipline it takes to play professionally is tremendous and Gerald has done that,” Clifford said.
Canadian football is rarely followed by American media outside of ESPN’s Chris Berman’s occasional highlight dabblings, but there is no shortage of NFL talent that at one time played in the CFL.
Look 100 miles to the west where Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (Also a Toledo product) has productively donned the stripped helmet and compiled 34 receptions for 394 yards and three touchdowns this season.
The Miami Dolphins’ Cameron Wake (Also a Penn State product) was a B.C. Lion before becoming a feared pass rusher in the AFC East.
Need more examples? Re: Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, Rocket Ismail, Jeff Garcia and Joe Theismann.
American aspirations aside, his high school coach said Cadogan’s focus remains on the task at hand. Or the tâche à accomplir for football fans in Montréal.
“I can’t wait to see them play and I really hope they win,” Clifford said.
The Grey Cup will take place 6 p.m. tonight featuring the Western Division Champion Calgary Stampeders and the Eastern Division Champion Argonauts. Cadogan wears No. 69 for the Argonauts.