Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Sean Salisbury - Quarterback - 1988-89 - Southern California


Salisburyís ten-year professional career began in 1986 with the Seattle Seahawks. from Seattle he moved to Indianapolis in 1987.


Sean was released by Indianapolis and signed with Winnipeg in September 1988. Salisbury proved to be a quick study of the Canadian game and led the Bombers down the stretch throwing 11 touchdowns and 1,566 yards in 7 games as Winnipeg finished the season 9-9.


In the '88 playoffs Winnipeg defeated Hamilton 35-28 to move on to the Eastern Final where they upset the 14-4 Argonauts in Toronto 27-11 to advance to the Grey Cup versus British Columbia. At Ottawa's Lansdowne Park Sean threw for 246 yards and a touchdown as Winnipeg edged out B.C. 22-21 to capture the Grey Cup.


In 1989 Sean returned as Winnipeg's starting quarterback and led the Eastern division with 4,049 yards passing and 26 touchdowns as Winnipeg finished the year 7-11. Salisbury ran into trouble for his attitude with coach Cal Murphy.  It was the eve of the 1989 CFL playoffs and Winnipeg GM Cal Murphy had decided to rid the Blue Bombers of their starting quarterback, Sean Salisbury.


And an untried, unproven Lee Saltz replaced him. "Our quarterback was a guy who I thought was the worst starter in CFL history, and I told him that, too," former linebacker James (Wild) West recalled from his Atlanta home recently. "Then we beat Toronto in the semifinal and we gave him the game ball. I told him, 'Yup, you played a great game but you're still the worst starter in CFL history!' But he took it pretty good.


West never had a quarrel with Salisbury's banishment.

"It wasn't a big deal for us because he was becoming a recluse," said West, 50. "And he gave everyone the impression he was carrying the team. But he didn't win the (1988) Grey Cup for us, it was our defence.

"It was the defence that was selling tickets and winning games, and the fans there really understood that. We made defence fun for the fans. I have great memories about the thrill of that crowd."


Winnipeg was defeated by Hamilton in the Eastern final 14-10 in Sean's last game in Canadian football. He returned to the NFL for the 1990 season with the Minnesota Vikings.


Minnesota (1990-94) and San Diego (1996).  Upon his return to the NFL with Minnesota he was named the NFLís Player of the Week in 1992 when he threw for 386 yards against the Denver Broncos.


Salisbury took a season off and served as a football analyst for the Sports Fan Radio Network in 1995 before returning for his final year in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers in 1996.


A standout quarterback at the University of Southern California (1981-85), Salisbury was a broadcasting major and was inducted into the Skull and Dagger society, which honors excellence for both academics and athletics.


Sean Salisbury joined ESPN in 1997 as sideline reporter for college football games on ESPN2. He served as NFL analyst on ESPNís SportsCenter and Sunday NFL Countdown, as well as The NFL on ESPN Radio, ESPN2ís ESPN Live (formerly NFL 2Night) and ESPNEWS.

Hitting rock-bottom Gary Lawless - Winnipeg Free Press - Feb 2 2012

INDIANAPOLIS -- Sean Salisbury made a mistake and then doubled down with a lie. When the cards were dealt his career was pushed across the felt and soon he was broke, divorced, unemployable and drifting deep into depression.

Salisbury was a pro football championship quarterback and then a top flight broadcaster with ESPN. Fame, money and all the trappings of big time American success that were flushed down the toilet of life when he got a little into the bag and made a mistake with his cellphone.


Winnipeggers will remember Salisbury for his time with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when he led the club to a Grey Cup championship in 1988 under coach Mike Riley.


"That season was one of my best in my football career. When my agent first said I could go to Canada to play I thought it was beneath me," said the 48-year-old Salisbury, here in Indy to try and reconnect with the media power brokers that he once considered his peers. "But I went and then I met Mike and I will tell you that he and Tony Dungy were the greatest men and influences that I ever had in my career. I won in my first year up there and it got me back to the NFL."


Salisbury left Winnipeg to sign with the Minnesota Vikings and spent parts of six more seasons in the NFL before moving to the broadcast booth, where he enjoyed 12 years with ESPN in a high-profile broadcast career.


All that ended in 2008 when ESPN elected not to renew his contract amid allegations Salisbury had shown a lewd picture of himself to other employees. Salisbury continued to deny the incident even after his dismissal before finally coming clean in 2010. Salisbury, who says he is 35 pounds overweight, is looking for redemption. He says he's hit rock-bottom and says he owns his mistakes but when he talks about the end of his time at ESPN he doesn't quite accept the way it all went down.


"I've spent six years paying for that mistake," he said on Wednesday, sitting across from me at a table in the midst of Radio Row at Super Bowl. "Did I do it? Yes. Did I lie about it? Yes. I was ashamed. It was stupid. I'm not pooh-poohing it away but I don't think I should have been fired. I was their lead analyst on TV six days a week. I should have taken a suspension for a week and I thought it would go away. But then it just ended. My life fell apart. The sad part for me was my identity was locked into my job. I couldn't recover for a long time."


In fact, Salisbury says he became addicted to painkillers and was reduced to staying in bed for days at a time.

"I would wake up crying. Wondering what had happened to my life," he said. "When I left ESPN, it was a very dark time for me. I didn't expect it. My father was dying at the same time and he was my best friend and hero. I lost my salary. I went through a divorce. I was basically ruined financially. The pain from my career, they had been burning nerves in my back and back to dull the pain for years, as well as the depression I was entering, I turned to pain pills. None of it helped. I basically spent three years in my house. I would leave for groceries or to see my kids. I thought I was hiding it from them but they're not stupid. I couldn't do anything."


Salisbury only recently got back on TV doing some college sports and regional work in Dallas.

"I should have been back in the game three years ago but I couldn't bounce back," he said. "But I'm feeling good now and most days are good ones. I'm going to make my way back. I won't say I took it for granted before but I just thought it was what I did. I'll be more proud when I get back. And I will."



-- statistics --



Sean Salisbury     Southern California
Yr Team Att Cmp Yds Pct. TD Int Lg
1988 Wpg 202 100 1,566 49.5 11 5 72
1989 Wpg 595 293 4,049 49.2 26 26 94
Total 2 797 393 5,615 49.3 37 31 94


Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
1988 Wpg 3 9 3.0 7 0
1989 Wpg 24 54 2.3 15 0
Total 2 27 63 2.3 15 0


-- NFL --



Yr Team Att Cmp Yds Pct. TD Int Lg
1987 Ind 12 8 68 66.7 0 2 11
1992 Min 175 97 1,203 55.4 5 2 51
1993 Min 195 115 1,413 59.0 9 6 55
1994 Min 34 16 156 47.1 0 1 38
1996 SD 161 82 984 50.9 5 8 56
Total 5 577 318 3,824 55.1 19 19 56


Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
1987 Ind 0 0 0.0 0 0
1992 Min 11 0 0.0 4 0
1993 Min 10 -1 -0.1 6 0
1994 Min 3 2 0.7 5 0
1996 SD 6 14 2.3 11 0
Total 5 30 15 0.5 11 0