Hal Patteson - Wide Receiver - 1954-61 - Kansas
Patterson had many talents – Former Alouette also drafted to play baseball/basketball - Ian MacDonald, Montreal Gazette - 28-01-2007
When Harold (Hal) Patterson reported to the Alouettes' training camp in 1954, he wasn't sure if he wanted to pursue a career in football.
A three-sport standout at the University of Kansas - football, basketball and baseball - Patterson, 73, said in a recent telephone conversation from his home in Burdett, Kan., that baseball was his first choice for a professional career.
"I had a chance to go with the (Los Angeles) Dodgers in baseball," Patterson said. "At that time, a baseball team wanted you to spend five or six years in the minor leagues.
"I was a shortstop in Kansas, but the Dodgers wanted me to play outfield. They were going to start me with Ponca (Oklahoma) in the league where Mickey Mantle (the Yankees Hall of Famer) started with Joplin.
"I thought I'd try football for a year, and that way I'd know right away if I could make it or not."
Patterson found out immediately that he could make it in the Canadian Football League. Clicking almost instantly with Alouettes quarterback Sam Etcheverry, the pair became one of the CFL's most effective and spectacular pass-and-catch combos in history.
When he wasn't turning Etcheverry completions into long gains, Patterson was an all-star on defence at safety and
also returned kickoffs as the Alouettes won the Big Four (now Eastern Conference) title
three years in a row, from 1954-56, only to lose in the Grey Cup each year to the Edmonton Eskimos.
Patterson had options before he joined the Alouettes. He was drafted by the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles and the National Basketball Association's Minneapolis franchise.
"I never regretted going to Montreal," Patterson said. "I was happy with the way it turned out. I feel the wide-open play on the larger field suited my style. And I enjoyed playing two ways (offence and defence)."
Fifty years after the fact, several of Patterson's records still stand. This is particularly amazing because CFL schedules have been lengthened and rules have been changed specifically to increase scoring opportunities.
On Sept. 29, 1956, in a 44-43 win at Hamilton, Patterson piled up 338 yards receiving. The next-highest total by an Alouettes receiver to this day is the 232 yards Patterson had in a 43-12 win over the Argonauts on Oct. 22, 1955, in Toronto.
Records are made to be broken, but one mark set by Etcheverry and Patterson will never be surpassed. On Sept. 22, 1956, during a 56-14 win over Hamilton at Molson Stadium, the dynamic pair hooked up for a 109-yard touchdown. The line of scrimmage for a team coming out of its own end is always the one-yard line - so it would be impossible to score a 110-yard TD.
"I was hurried and I just threw the ball way up there and Harold went up and got it," Etcheverry recalled of that play. "That was all Harold."
"I don't know about that," Patterson said. "Sam had a great arm and he always got the ball out there. It takes two to make those plays. Sam and I teamed up for quite a few of them."
Montreal fans have favourite memories of Patterson's play, but one from a recognized football authority is noteworthy.
Bud Grant, a CFL Hall of Famer after coaching Winnipeg to numerous Grey Cup wins, was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, after coaching the Minnesota Vikings to 11 NFL division titles and four Super Bowl appearances. At a CFL induction ceremony some years ago, Grant talked about Patterson pulling off the "damndest thing" he'd ever seen in football.
Grant was coaching Winnipeg during an exhibition game in Montreal when Patterson ran back the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The Als were offside, so Winnipeg kicked off again and Patterson ran it back 110 yards for a score.
"I'd never seen anything like it," Grant said, "and I doubt if I ever will again."
Patterson never lived year-round in Montreal. During his first season, he shared an apartment with teammates Alex Webster, Jim Staton and Tom Hugo.
After the 1960 season, Patterson and Etcheverry were traded to Hamilton for quarterback Bernie Faloney and defensive-end Don Paquette in a transaction that gained front-page headlines across Canada. Using a no-trade clause in his contract, Etcheverry refused to report and joined the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals instead. But Patterson would have several more all-star seasons while helping the Tiger-Cats win three Grey Cups.
Patterson went home to Kansas in 1968, where he partnered with his brothers in construction projects. His health has deteriorated, and he expresses regrets that it's unlikely he will be able to make it to Montreal next month after being invited to be a head-table guest during a banquet in conjunction with the CFL coaches convention.
"My health is not good," Patterson said. "I have diabetes very bad and it seems like I'm in the process of developing Alzheimer's."