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First and Ten with CFL Legend "Pinball" Clemons

First and Ten with CFL Legend "Pinball" Clemons

Sean Mitton, Canadian Expat Network
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Canadian sports hero and one of the ambassadors of the CFL, Mike "Pinball" Clemons took time to answer questions prior to the 2008 Grey Cup. Clemons is currently the CEO of the Toronto Argonauts and has won championships as both a player and a coach. He's also a record holder of several CFL and Argonaut records.

Which Grey Cup Victory means the most to you and why?

I won 3 Grey Cups as a player and this was a euphoric experience, much more so than any personal award such as the Most Outstanding Player Award. I also had one Grey Cup victory as a coach. In that win, I won 40 times - once for every guy on the team.

While coaching is not as euphoric as playing, there is a greater degree of appreciation and lasting satisfaction. It is more like being a parent and watching your children succeed.

What obstacles did you have to overcome in order to become Pro football's All Time, All Purpose career yardage leader?

The truth be told, most award wining athletes are simply innately blessed with an above average level of skill. For me, the greater obstacles were growing up to a single parent and, more importantly, prioritizing academic achievement over athletic excellence. My mom overcame more obstacles than I did and paved the way for success.

Having said that, we have to steward our talents in order to maximize them and get the greater achievement from ourselves.

How do you balance Family, Football, Business Interests and your charitable work?

This can be a difficult balance but the best process that I have found is to scheme for family success and allow the others to fall into place.

When I say "scheme", it is just like having a game plan for the Grey Cup.

As a family we plan four weeks together every year. I also take the girls to school most mornings to give us time together. So with this, we still prioritize time and opportunities for our family but we begin by building in these systems that give us the chance to be successful even when charitable schedules are busy.

Why did you choose William & Mary for College?

This was strictly a cognitive decision not an emotional one. I chose William & Mary because of its academic history and reputation as being the second oldest school in North America.

What would you have done if you had not played Professional football?

Before coming to the Canadian Football League, I had preliminarily accepted a job working with Honeywell and they were going to pay for me to get my MBA. I wanted to serve them for a period of time in appreciation for their commitment to me, learn from a multinational organization and then open my own business. Ultimately, after reaching a level of success I would have returned to teach school. This is something that I still may do.

What is the best/most memorable Argo locker room story that you can share?

In the interest of time with the many stories I could tell, I'll say they all involve in-house pranks like nailing rookies' cleats to the floor of the locker room and in retaliation, they would freeze veterans' clothes stiff as they prepare to dress to go to the field for practice.

There are rumors of you running for political office in the near future; any truth to this?

This is one of the greatest compliments I've ever been given. It denotes a high level of public trust as well as public service in life's highest calling. However, it is not my greatest desire but I won't say "never"because along with trust comes responsibility. Not only that, I said I'd never coach! And we know what happened there! So I won't make that statement again!

Tell us about the Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation.

Our foundation is built on four principals of which the first two are really the basis. The first is building character in youth which gives them the ability to be great citizens. This is followed by education which is the best vehicle I know to elevate kids from surviving to thriving. Quickly, points three and four are to promote health and support youth who are battling illness, and finally to support under-resourced (poor) youth.

What does it mean to be the first black head coach in Professional football to win his leagues championship?

It means that I had great players and great coaches and I found a way NOT to mess it up!!! But it is significant in illustrating to youth of colour that they have more options than just to play and that their mind is their strongest muscle.

You are widely known throughout Canada as an amazing motivational speaker, how might one go about booking you for an event?

Thank you for that compliment. My speaking engagements are handled througha great organization called Sports Celebrity Marketing S.C.M. Inc. It's a company based in Canada but also with a US office, and run by wonderful people. To book me to speak at your event, please call Elaine at 954-330-6362 or email her at elaine@sportscelebs.com.


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