Mel Profit - Tight End - 1966-71 - UCLA
Rob Malich - Toronto Argonauts Website - 1996
By nature, you have to be a little nutty to play professional football. Most mere mortals would recoil in horror at the sight and sound of endless body contact, much of it at top speed, but there are a certain few in the minority who get excited by the prospect.
These are the free spirits who play football, who by their ability, toughness and general lack of concern stand out from the crowd. However, few stood out like tight end Mel Profit, who in his day and age was the epitome of a rebel in uniform.
After attending U.C.L.A. in the 1960's, Profit was drafted by both the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL and Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL in 1964, but showed his resilience by refusing to report to both of them. Instead, he did the usual college-age thing and travelled through Europe in 1965, no doubt experiencing the cultural revolution that was breaking through London's Piccadilly Circus, Paris's Champs D'Elysees and Amsterdam's red-light district.
When he came back to North America, he decided to move up the western coast to B.C., where he played briefly with the Lions before joining the Argos in 1966. That year, he caught 32 passes for 473 yards, and it was the beginning of a consistently top-notch six-year Argo career.
A quick look at the stats would prove this: 1967 - 30 catches for 432 yards, 1968 - 40 catches for 805 yards, 1969 - 40 catches for 599 yards, 1970 - 39 catches for 649 yards, and 1971 - 39 catches for 725 yards. He was an eastern all-star from 1968-71, and a CFL all-star in his final season as well.
"He was probably one of the best tight ends ever to play the game," said his teammate and long-time Argo broadcaster Peter Martin. "He was just a tough bugger, a real hard-noser."
But off the field, Profit made as many headlines as he did on the field. In the psychedelic era of the late '60's, football was still a conservative, tough-guy, Vince Lombardi-type of game, where men in crewcuts did battle in military-like fashion. But in the bars, cafes and university across North America, the fashions and styles were changing, and Profit was one of the first to bring them to the football field: men having long hair, doing drugs, wearing crazy clothes, etc...Profit was in on it.
"He was the California, hippie, surfing type dude with long hair," was how slotback Dave Cramner remembered his receiving partner, who also laughed at Profit's many anti-establishment episodes, which were funny yet harmless. "I remember one time, Leo Cahill said, 'Okay guys, you have to wear a shirt, tie and jacket for road trips. So Mel had a shirt, tie and jacket, but he also was wearing jeans, big boots and a cowboy hat."
Away from football, Profit owned a boutique (how many football players could say that?) called The First Asylum (great name!) and was a radio personality on CFRB, among other things. He moved back to Santa Monica, California in the 1980's, where it was rumoured he was involved in the fitness craze, and then he relocated to Sacramento, where efforts to track him down failed.
Peace, Mel, wherever you are!
Argos Locate Profit - Steve Simmons - 27-10-2007
The search for Mel Profit began a few months back, a search most thought was fruitless.
Profit, the long-haired Argo star, author, actor, tight end, broadcaster and celebrity, was larger than life in his time in Toronto, back in the late 1960s, early '70s. And then he became a television episode of sorts, disappearing without a trace.
All the old Argos told Jonathan Rubinoff he wouldn't find him. They didn't know where he was, hadn't heard from him in years.
But Rubinoff, whose job was to contact Argos alumni nominated for the All-Time team that is to be announced this weekend, was motivated by the challenge. He used the Internet to begin searching out Profits across America and began phoning. He made one call after another.
And then he connected with a young woman in New Jersey. She said she was Profit's great niece. She contacted her father. He contacted his uncle. The connection was made.
Mel Profit arrives in Toronto today, 36 years after his last game of Canadian football, having been here just once since he stopped being a celebrity, a little nervous for the trip down memory lane, a lot excited, the old football feelings coming back at the ripe old age of 66.
Profit arrives not completely understanding there is still a magic to his name, how he and the Argos of that time, represent the most popular Toronto team to never win anything -- and maybe the most revered.
"I never thought of myself as a hippie and never thought of myself as a celebrity, I just thought of myself as a football player," Profit said.
"Because I had long hair and because I was a guy from California, that's how people thought of me. If all the fans in Toronto had taken a trip to California then and visited, they would have seen that just about everybody else looked like me too.
"I was just a football player for the Toronto Argonauts, playing with the greatest group of guys, the greatest group of talent and characters I'd ever been around."
Maybe that's the rub with that Argo team, why we can't let them go. The personalities are all but gone from today's game, replaced in Profit's own words by "the comedy act" of the modern athlete.
The Argos had Profit and Tricky Dick Thornton and Bobby Taylor and Bill Symons and Marv Luster and later Leon McQuay and Joe Theismann and so much more.
"A lot of it had to do with the time," Profit said. "We all came from different places and we took this us-against-the-world mentality. A bunch of rebels nobody wanted. The city was fairly conservative and we were a little more flamboyant."
"It had more to do with our time in history but we had great players. Bill Symons was the best player in the CFL. Marv Luster was best defensive player. We were a good team. We weren't a great team. You can't ever be told you're a great team if you don't win a championship. We didn't win a championship."
Only they were more popular than most Argo champions, with Profit being the most popular. And then he went wayward, didn't keep in touch, distanced himself from the game, the team, his past.
He didn't know, until I told him, that McQuay had died or that Harry Abofs killed himself. There was a few seconds of silence on the telephone.
"It's been a long time," said Profit.
A long time with so many turns, so much mystery. He has lived where the sun has taken him, to Southern California, to Northern California, to Arizona, and most recently Hawaii. "I don't think I remember all of it," he said. Sometimes he's sold real estate. Sometimes he's worked at Four Seasons properties, maintaining a Toronto tie to the founder, Isadore Sharp. This year he's travelling with Gail, his partner of the past 18 years, on sabbatical he says, seeing as much of the western and southern United States as possible.
"Wherever the sun shines, that's where it takes me," said Profit, who may not think of himself as a hippie but still sounds that way.
"What I said back then was what I felt. I didn't consider myself outspoken. I was emotionally tied to the Argonauts because they were pretty much my life for 10 years. Everything I said came from the heart."
Even his eventual ending.
At the beginning of training camp in 1972, coach Leo Cahill called Profit into his office. Cahill told him he had no place for an import at tight end, that he couldn't be an Argo anymore. "He said if I wanted to play on another team, to let him know and he'd arrange a trade.
"At the time, I said I'd think about it. That was the end. I didn't think about it. I had no interest in playing anywhere else."
For a time, he worked on radio in Toronto, on television, even made NFL picks for the Toronto Sun. And then he picked up and left. Without a trace.
"If it wasn't for the weather I never would have left," said Profit. "I loved the city to death. I loved the people. I just couldn't take the six months of winter."
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