Michael 'Pinball' Clemons - Running Back - 1989-00 - William & Mary
The attributes of Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons as a Person, Coach and Community leader are well known and widespread. The Dunedin born and raised Clemons has become a Canadian citizen and immersed himself as the ultimate Torontonian.
What may be less known are the exploits ‘Pinball’ displayed over 12 seasons as a player in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts.
Clemons arrived in Toronto in 1989 after being cut by the Kansas City Chiefs. Head Coach Bob O’Billovich gave Clemons the ‘Pinball’ moniker from the way he bounced around running the ball in training camp that year.
In 1990 Clemons would become just the third player in the franchises history to be named the league’s Most Outstanding Player (after Bill Symons and Condredge Holloway). Clemons was definitely outstanding in a number of categories – Rushing, Receiving, Punt Returns, Kick Returns – as he obliterated the pro football record for all-purpose yards (since surpassed). With a super charged offence under coach Don Matthews Clemons was everywhere posting incredible statistics.
1991 brought a change of ownership with Bruce McNall, John Candy and Wayne Gretzky on the scene and a new high profile teammate in Rocket Ismail. The ‘Rocket’ took over most of Clemons special teams duties but Pinball still found many ways to contribute as the Argos marched to a Grey Cup championship over Calgary.
1992 to 1995 brought a lull for the franchise and Pinball was the lone beacon who endured as a fan favourite on some bad teams. 1996 brought Doug Flutie and a whole new cast of all-stars including Robert Drummond as Don Matthews returned to coach the Argonauts. Matthews shifted Clemons focus to be more of a receiver in the high power offence. Clemons responded with All-Star receiving numbers 1,268yards on 116 catches - while again posting terrific special team return results. The Argonauts would dominate in 1996 and ’97 with identical 15-3 regular season records and back-to-back Grey Cup championships.
1998 to 2000 brought a whole new cast of quarterbacks throwing passes to Clemons; the likes of Kerwin Bell and Jay Barker. Clemons continued as the most identifiable and beloved member of the Double Blue.
When Sherwood Schwarz the clubs owner was desperate to change the clubs fortunes under the disastrous regime of John Huard – who did he turn to to pick up the pieces and the clubs fortunes none other than Michael Clemons. Pinball reluctantly accepted for the remainder of the 2000 season after a farewell game as a player versus Saskatchewan which brought out 28,724 fans to Skydome the largest Argonauts crowd in years.
The 2001 season started with Clemons as club President but when his recruited coach Gary Etcheverry struggled again Clemons stepped in to coach. This reign as coach would be uninterrupted up to the 2008 season and included a Grey Cup championship in 2004 and first place finished in 2005 and 2007.
Clemons retired as a coach after the 2007 to spend more time with his family and more time in the community doing what he has always done best – promoting the Toronto Argonauts and the CFL.
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