Gene Makowsky - Offensive Line - 1995-2011 - Saskatchewan
Roughriders legend Gene Makowsky retires - ROB VANSTONE, Leader-Post February 17, 2012
REGINA — There is a changing of the guard with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Veteran guard Gene Makowsky — the CFL team’s all-time games-played leader — announced Friday that he is retiring after 17 seasons with the Green and White. Makowsky confirmed his retirement shortly after another Riders mainstay, receiver Andy Fantuz, announced via Twitter that he was signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as a free agent.
An emotional Makowsky struggled to find the words to announce his retirement when he began Friday’s media conference at Mosaic Stadium.
“Being a Rider wasn’t just a job for me,’’ the Saskatoon-born Makowsky said. “It was my passion. It was my dream job.’’
But as one career ends, Makowsky begins another. He was elected in November as the MLA for the Regina Dewdney constituency. Premier Brad Wall, of the governing Saskatchewan Party, had given his blessing to Makowsky if he wished to continue playing football.
“For those who heard Gene at his press conference, they would have heard someone who is just a class act,’’ Wall told Joe Couture of the StarPhoenix on Friday.
Wall added: “As a fan, I am disappointed because I think he could still play a little bit. But again, as the leader of the party and someone involved in this side of things, we’re glad to have him on our team.’’
Makowsky, who turns 39 on April 17, had pondered the possibility of doing double duty. The decision to retire was announced one day after the Roughriders signed two free-agent offensive linemen — Brendon LaBatte (a Weyburn product and a University of Regina Rams alumnus) and Dominic Picard.
“It’s remarkable today that he said he was going to delay his retirement and see how the Riders did in free agency,’’ said Wall, who added: “That’s a real team person.’’
That extends to all-star teams. Makowsky was a five-time CFL all-star and a seven-time member of the West Division’s dream team. He was named the league’s outstanding offensive lineman in 2004 and 2005, and was also the West’s finalist for that award in 2008.
In addition, Makowsky played for the Roughriders in the 1997, 2007, 2009 and 2010 Grey Cup games. In 2007, he helped Saskatchewan win the third championship in franchise history, and was the first Roughrider to hoist the trophy at Rogers Centre in Toronto after a 23-19 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“That was definitely the highlight,’’ Makowsky said before pausing to regain his composure.
Last season, Makowsky passed another 17-year Rider — Roger Aldag — to ascend to the top of the team’s games-played list. Makowsky ended up playing 284 regular-season games and suiting up another 20 times for playoff contests or Grey Cups.
“We just lost one of the most team-oriented guys you could ever meet,’’ Roughriders general manager Brendan Taman said. “It’s a big blow to lose Gene — the ultimate pro.’’
Even so, Makowsky will still be in the public eye.
“The Riders are saying goodbye to a veteran, Gene Makowsky, but we’re saying hello to a promising rookie, Gene Makowsky,’’ Wall said. “We just thank him for everything he did on the football field and off, and for what he’s continuing to do for the province.’’