May 9, 2014

Moffat: Flory admired both on and off the field

Timing is everything for an offensive lineman. One flinch and you draw a penalty, while one ill-timed step ends up with you helping your own quarterback up.

So it is fitting the retirement of “The Last of the Mohicans” will time out so that Scott Flory can throw the lead block when Anthony Calvillo heads to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Pro Football’s all-time leading passer recently explained to me “The Last of the Mohicans” was a sign of respect among a dwindling band of brothers branded by a Grey Cup loss in 2000, bonded by victory in 2002 and to this most noble duo – Anthony and Scott -, capped by Montreal’s only back-to-back victories in franchise history.

Flory’s other nickname may be more telling.  

“The Florinator: Half Man, Half Machine,” chuckles Paul Lambert, veteran of 10 seasons, eight spent in the trenches with Flory.

“He’s going to be pissed I’m telling you, but he would always say ‘We gotta hit ‘em, but hit ‘em in the mind.’  For Scott it meant we have to mentally get after them, then we know we’ve won the battle.”

“He was emotional when he had to be, but very in tune with his emotions.  The message is really forceful when you’re not emotional all the time.  When he got emotional we knew it was important.”

The 1998 off-season was an important one for Alouettes GM Jim Popp. Calvillo was signed after his release from the Ticats, while Ben Cahoon was snagged with a 7th overall Draft pick in that year’s Draft.

The only architect the Als have known since their rebirth may have been crossing his fingers as the Roughriders passed over a Prairie-proud force of nature not once, but twice.

Flory was not even the first lineman selected that spring and truth is Popp may have been hedging his bet by stockpiling two more in the late rounds. 

Career games played including post-season? Flory 265, those latecomers 0.

In fact, Flory battled through more CFL games than EVERY other O-lineman drafted that year.

“He had an amazing streak avoiding injuries and playing smart,” says longtime teammate Dave Mudge, often Scott’s right hand man at right tackle. 

“His ability and his desire…He always talked about never wanting to come out for a play, not for injury or fatigue.”

“He always talked about ‘marking his territory’. He was a leader on the team – if we hadn’t covered all the scenarios or schemes, he wasn’t shy about challenging the coaches, but not in a confrontational way.  Scott was one of the smarter players you’ll ever play with.”

Flory’s impressive longevity doesn’t even factor in his lengthy “WFL” career.  Since lineman out often out of meetings early, the herd often splits up for friendly “Walking Football League” pickup games.

“Scott was always trying to come up with plays and gimmicks,” recalls Mudge.  “He was one of the people who drew the group together.  Then on the field when it mattered, he’d just know exactly what’s coming before it comes, you never had to worry about him not picking up a guy or making the switch.  He loved the coaching side of the game, coming up with schemes of his own.”

Flory and the perennial fortress that was the Als’ O-lines certainly extended Calvillo’s career, but his legacy will be appreciated by AC’s inheritor not to mention the reborn Ottawa franchise.

Like the decades of quarterbacks who wondered how long they’d wait for a start, young offensive linemen in Montreal discovered patience was a virtue even if it felt like a necessary evil.

Anthony “Moose” Barrette calls Flory a “true technician” and eagerly scanned any and every piece of advice.  

“’Coach Flory’ simplified the game for me day in and day out,” says Barrette, now vying for a starting job with the REDBLACKS.  “He would take me aside in practice sometimes after one-on-ones and just say two maybe three sentences on what I need to change to be successful.”

“I guess you can say he taught me to have one mind on the field not 12, to think outside the box,” raves Barrette.  “Instead of just reading the defensive line, he explained the importance of understanding the entire defence as a whole.  I’m excited to use the stuff he taught me when I go to (Ottawa) camp in June.”

Even before Flory’s torn bicep injury that shifted him from starter to unofficial assistant to the O-line coach, his younger teammates teasingly called him “Coach Flory” or “Coacher.”

“Scott was one of those guys who’d go home, watch a lot of film and come in the next day and be able to help the coaches out  with ‘what if they do this?’” says longtime understudy Kristian Matte.  

He’s seen lots of defenses and always had an idea to stop it.”

“The first game I ever started at centre I made a call according to our game plan, but Scott saw something he recognized from the year before and changed the call.”  

“He was bang on.”

“He sees things that as a young player it takes another 2 or 3 seconds.  For him it’s a blink of an eye.”

Alouette life after the Mohicans may be difficult. Someone will have to whip the herd into a frenzy. Matte says Flory’s “Animal Style on 3!” still resounds in his ears.

“It’s going to be a huge issue, losing Anthony and Scott,” concedes Mudge.  “Scott was one of the people who drew the group together with his character.”

So what if Hollywood’s Mohican star Daniel Day-Lewis has more Oscars than the longtime Alouette guard has CFL Lineman of the Year honours.  Those who know him closely say Flory is more deserving of his own TV show.

“If they ever do a Canadian ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ Scott is the right man,” reveals Mudge.  

The “Florinator” always had a spot for good food and a good deal in heaps for fueling gridiron bodyguards.  “Wagon Wheel” in The Peg, “Sparky” pizza pie in his native Regina.

The last outposts of the Mohicans fear not. Matte and his fellow Als linemen may be coming for generations.

“Scott had us plugged in for every city and I’ll hit the haunts this season,” Matte admits.  “He knew when it was time to get down to business, when to have fun and when to go eat well.”

If he has his way, Flory may well will be picking a diner in Hamilton before new busts are unveiled at the Hall.