December 28, 2010

Moffat: Memories of a hero Tony Proudfoot

Rick Moffat

For the last four years, Tony Proudfoot has vehemently denied he is a hero. It is time for you to prove him wrong.
Father, educator, academic, outdoorsman, pro athlete, coach, author, CJAD 800 broadcaster and blogger; Proudfoot’s courageous campaign of activism to support research and those trying to cope with the rare disease known as A.L.S. will surely live beyond his 61 years.



Tony Proudfoot jokes with CJAD 800 radio broadcast partner Rick Moffat.

“I believe Tony Proudfoot is an everyday hero,” says Wally Buono, his former teammate with the ’74 and ’77 Grey Cup Champion Alouettes. “Beyond the call of duty, giving you an example of what being a man is all about.”
Buono was speaking of Proudfoot’s incredible victories in a struggle that could only end in defeat to his unforgiving opponent – the incurable Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“A hideous disease,” is how Proudfoot described it. Forcing him to become a prisoner in his own body. A life sentence turned death sentence.
But the life of Tony Proudfoot is marked by the best of his heart and soul and mind making a difference when the stakes were highest and the odds the longest.
September 13, 2006:  The candles were blown out just three days before on his 57th birthday celebration. Tony Proudfoot is called to respond to a shooting outside his Dawson College Phys Ed department office. Helter-skelter, students are scrambling to run away. Tony never sees the gunman intent on snuffing out life. Proudfoot cradles the head wound of a teenager, lying in a pool of blood. He holds the wound, speaking reassuringly, saving him until Urgence Sante’ will finally brave the risk of more shots being fired.
May 7, 2007: Proudfoot is handed the news that would crush many. Dr. Angela Genge shares a dire conclusion – a diagnosis of incurable Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Tony again reacts the only way he knows how. Headstrong, determined. He’ll “suck it up” and make a difference.
“Team Proudfoot” has since raised more than $500,000 for the A.L.S. Society of Quebec. Easily enough to overshadow his heroics on the football field.

Two-time Grey Cup champion player and CFL All-Star through 13 gritty seasons – not even a broken arm eased the punishment he doled out as the thinking man’s “hitter” in the Als’ defence. Tony is an icon of ingenuity for his actions in the 1977 ‘Staple Game’.
The Als were heavy underdogs against the Eskimos on a slushy, frozen wasteland of a roofless Olympic Stadium. Proudfoot found an industrial staple gun left behind in the dressing room by a construction crew and blasted staples through his shoes. The moved propelled his team to victory and the victory would propel his coaching mentor Marv Levy back to the NFL and eventually into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Proudfoot joined CJAD 800 in 1996 when the Als were reborn. He wore his lucky Levy era toque on the sidelines when the Als finally won the Grey Cup again in 2002, against the Eskimos once more.
Proudfoot would be awarded a Grey Cup ring in the spring of 2010 for his role as Special Consultant to Head Coach Marc Trestman after the “13th Man Miracle” comeback in November of 2009 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Tony wore the same lucky toque on the sidelines that day in Calgary.
In 2010, Tony continued to advise Trestman. He proudly watched the Als repeat as champions for the first time in franchise history from his Pointe-Claire, Quebec home. Still wearing the lucky toque.
In the whirlwind after the Grey Cup victory parade, Coach Trestman and future Hall of Famer Ben Cahoon made sure they paid one more visit to the man who had been their inspiration.
Cahoon left behind a keepsake: His “Champions” hat given to the players at the final gun on Grey Cup Sunday. For weeks, the cap rested beside the lucky toque on the headrest of Tony’s favourite chair.
Tony is survived by his wife Vicki and three children who rallied around their father’s decision to battle his final years publicly and for the common good… the way he lived his entire life.