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Barrie football legend tells us what he tells his grandson about success

Hall of Famer talks four downs versus three, crackback blocking, and to have a goal 'you can sink your teeth into'
Jim Corrigall
'Country' Jim Corrigall. Courtesy Barrie Sports Hall of Fame

Barrie product Jim Corrigall loved his time in Toronto, and makes no bones about it, even though he calls Ravenna, Ohio home these days.

The former CFL great, who just turned 71 this week, patrolled the defensive line for the Argonauts for 12 seasons, but enjoyed only one Grey Cup game in his career (1971). 

As the old adage goes, the fish stank at the head, and Jim tells BarrieToday the main problem aboard the good ship Argo was consistency in the ownership group. 

“I remember John Bassett owned the Argos, then he sold it to Bill Hodgson, and then, I think Molson bought the club. So, we had good owners, but there was a lot of inconsistency of ownership, inconsistency of philosophy in management, in the coaching staff, the players. 

“With the change in environment, a lot of coaches came and went. After Leo Cahill, there was John Rauch, and then Russ Jackson, then Forrest Gregg, then Willie Wood – (and) they were not given time to establish consistency, and management didn’t spend money,” to improve the team. 

Corrigall, who graduated from Ohio’s Kent State University and later became head coach of the school’s Golden Flashes, points with hope to the incoming Argo management team of Jim Popp as general manager and Marc Trestman as head coach, a pair that knew great success in Montreal, winning back-to-back Grey Cups. 

“Popp understands the Canadian game, and Trestman has had a long coaching career (supporting roles in college and in the NFL, including a brief stint at the helm of the Chicago Bears). But they’ll experience growing pains (in Toronto), and the question remains how much money they want to spend to put the product on the field.” 

A member of the Barrie Sports Hall of Fame, Jim, who went by the nickname “Country” during his days in Toronto, is probably too modest to mention his own credentials – Eastern Conference Rookie of the Year, four-time CFL all-star, Outstanding Defensive Player, CFL Hall of Famer since 1990.

Fans who witnessed some of those hapless teams at the old bandbox known as Exhibition Stadium were thrilled to see Corrigall celebrate sacks by turning cartwheels. It only made more acute their frustration at finishing out of the playoffs so often. 

Jim also admits the game has changed substantially since he took off his helmet for the last time in 1981. 

“There’s more motion in the game,” he says. “When I played, the offence was allowed to put only one man in motion (before the snap). Now, it’s two or three at once. That makes it hard to defend against.

“They’ve instituted other rule changes (against so-called “crackback” blocking, for example) that have had a positive effect. But, they still play three downs (in Canada), where four downs would open up the game, and make it more exciting.” 

And one can hear over the phone a measure of pride in Jim that his grandson, Zach, will be on the offensive line for the Golden Flashes this fall. 

“He’s got to pay the price,” to be successful in the college game. “He’s to think on his feet, be ready to change direction on his feet, hit the weight room and the racquetball court.

“Above all, he has to listen to his coaches, be respectful of his elders. And the coaches should motivate (Zach and his teammates) with a cohesive mission, and all be pulling in the same direction at the same time.

“Kids have got to remember their studies, keep their GPAs up, and have goals and dreams that they can really sink their teeth into.” 

Glenn Wilkins

About the Author: Glenn Wilkins

Glenn Wilkins, in a 30-year media career, has written for print and electronic media, as well as for TV and radio. Glenn has two books under his belt, profiling Canadian actors on Broadway and NHL coaches.
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