Gene Mack - Linebacker - 1971-75 - Texas El-Paso
Rob Malich - Toronto Argonauts website - 1996
Gene Mack can sure talk a good game, especially when it comes to football or acting. But when you've befriended and worked with some of the most influential people in sports and show business, what you have to say certainly carries some weight.
"When I came through here (in the early '70's), guys like (Garney) Henley and (Angelo) Mosca were prominent names in Hamilton, and you knew who you were going to play against every year," said Mack. "Hopefully, (the CFL) will get that type of tradition back."
Player stability and name recognition are areas the league needs to improve in, but they weren't a problem for Mack back when he was a linebacker for the Argos, nor is it a problem for him today as a well known character actor and commercial pitchman.
"I was at the Argo practice (at U of T) the other day and I met about 10 people that recognized me," said Mack, who at 47 looks about 15 years younger, and would not look too far out of place on the team today. "I was surprised."
He shouldn't have been. Mack was one of the most popular and energetic characters on a team full of them in the early '70's, which was the glamour era for the Double Blue in this city.
"That was a great time, we had a lot of fun," said Mack, listing the cast of characters as if it was only yesterday. "We had this one guy, (former professional wrestler) George Wells, he was as lunatic as they come. He was as crazy as (basketball star Dennis) Rodman."
After leaving football in the latter part of the decade, Mack found his way into acting, performing in shows such as "SCTV", "Night Heat" and "Top Cops" and movies like "Police Academy" and "Strange Brew". More recently, he has had roles in popular films like "Johnny Mnemonic", "Guilty as Sin" and "Trial By Jury", and has just finished a police drama with actors Bill Pullman and Ray Liotta called "Mistrial".
"Business is going pretty good right now," said Mack, who is also the muscular all-bran man in the humorous "All-Bran Cereal" commercial, for which he is probably even better known. "Day-by-day, I'm getting better at it, and I've worked with some of the best actors in the business."
One of them was former Argo owner John Candy, whom Mack first met on the set of SCTV. They later worked on the TV movie "Hostage For A Day" just months before Candy's tragic death.
"We became pretty good friends," said Mack, who developed similar close relationships with previous Argonaut owners John Bassett and Bill Hodgson. "I would love to see (Bassett) involved in sports in the 1990's. Up until he sold the Argos (in 1974), it was like a family."