August 24, 2007

Tony Proudfoot sits down with Brian Williams

( wire) — For nine seasons, Tony Proudfoot battled CFL opponents as an all-star defensive back for the Montreal Alouettes. Now the 57-year-old is in the battle of his life, having been recently diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), an illness commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Proudfoot and his wife Vicki talk candidly with Brian Williams in an emotional conversation that will air during the pre-game show on Wendy’s CFL on TSN Friday Night Football tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN, TSN HD and TSN Broadband.

During the sit-down interview, Proudfoot, currently the Alouettes’ radio analyst, discusses the reasons why he went public and the fans’ reaction to his announcement.

“One of the symptoms of ALS that’s most prominent is a slurred speech…After two exhibition games, CJAD [radio station] got a lot of calls. ‘What are you allowing a drunk on the radio for? I didn’t know Tony drank.’ CJAD was quite upset and suggested I stop broadcasting…One of the reasons I held the press conference was to buy myself time. I thought if people knew about it, they would cut me some slack,” says Proudfoot.

Proudfoot, who has always prided himself on staying in great shape, also describes the affects ALS is having on him physically.

“It’s a muscle wasting disease. Doctors have said ‘You’ll never be more fit than you are right now’…The harder you train, the faster you deteriorate, because the muscle fibers are diseased and if you stress them they die faster,” explains Proudfoot. “Ninety per cent of people die within three to five years of their first diagnosis.”

On a lighter note, Proudfoot and Williams touch on the 1977 Grey Cup between Edmonton and Montreal, where Proudfoot put staples in all of the Alouettes’ shoes, giving each player a better grip on the slick, icy field.

“[The Eskimos] just weren’t smart enough to recognize what they need to do. There was an electrician walking around with a staple gun in his hand…I had one of those eureka moments. So I asked to have his staple gun,” recalls Proudfoot. “I put staples in the bottom of my shoes…This had to be four hours before the game and we ran around the end zone checking out the footwear and we all looked at each other with our eyes nice and wide. ‘This is good, this is better than anything else we’ve tried.'”

Aside from his radio duties, Proudfoot has been a teacher at Dawson College in Montreal for 30 years. During the Dawson College shooting on September 13, 2006, Proudfoot used his knowledge of first aid to save the life of one of the shooting victims.

The interview with the Proudfoots, as well as all of Brian Williams’s features and interviews this season are available on TSN Broadband at Fans can also watch CFL Roundtable on TSN Broadband, where each week, the CFL on TSN studio analysts answer questions from fans around the world.