July 18, 2020

O’Leary: The hall of fame gets The Big Chill

Photo: Laurie Wheeler, Calgary Sports

When he first set foot on the field with the Shreveport Pirates in 1994, Freddie Childress had no way of knowing it, but he was about to get the full Canadian Football League experience.

The hulking offensive lineman — he stands at six-foot-four and weighed 345 pounds and was known as The Big Chill when he played — would get to experience two years of U.S. expansion before settling in for a successful eight-year stay with the Calgary Stampeders. He spent three more years in Saskatchewan, before he retired at the age of 40.

Childress picked up his phone on Friday morning in Calgary — he moved there after his playing days were done — and happily ran back through the pile of good memories accumulated over a 13-year career.

“Calgary will stand out to me the most, that’s where I spent the most time at. We won a couple of Grey Cups here, I won lineman of the year here,” Childress said. “We had good teams every year that I played in Calgary.”


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His time in a Stampeders’ uniform is what got him into the 2020 class of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Childress won Grey Cups in Calgary in 1998 and 2001. He’s a six-time Division All-Star and is a three-time CFL All-Star (1996 to 1998). In 1998, he was named the league’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman.

“When I first came to Calgary in ’96 I ended up making all-star the first year. Every year after that I tried to get better and ended up getting better each year. 1996 up to 2001 were my best years,” he said.

“When it comes to imposing figures that I’ve ever played with, some of the most imposing figures, Freddie Childress is up at the top, No. 1 and No. 2 on that list,” Henry Burris told Calgary play-by-play man Mark Stephen on his podcast on Thursday.

“You talk about a leader and a good guy…but whenever he stepped on the field you could see him switch gears and change his focus and bring that leadership and tenacity.

“When you talk about imposing his will on opponents, to see some d-linemen that you thought were imposing figures on the opposite side, to see them disappear from that film when (he) engaged with them…when it came time to handle business, it was about flipping that switch and getting the job done.”

After eight years with the Stamps, Childress went to Saskatchewan for the final three seasons of his career. When he announced his retirement, Riders’ coach Danny Barrett said at the time that Childress should expect his phone to ring five years to the day he hung his cleats up and that someone should start sizing up a bust for him at the hall of fame.


The call came later than some might have expected, but Childress was just happy to get the news early this spring that he would be a part of the 2020 class.

“I was shocked and surprised all at once,” he said. “When they first called I couldn’t really believe it. Then once I got to talking to them, I said, finally after 14 years I’m in. I had to sit down and think about it for a minute. I put the time and effort in and now I’m getting rewarded.”

He’s especially happy to be going into the hall with some of his closest friends and former teammates. Childress, Eddie Davis and Kelvin Anderson were all together in Shreveport. They made their way to Calgary in 1996 when the CFL’s American teams folded and Childress got to play with Davis again in Saskatchewan before retiring. Davis was inducted to the hall in 2015 and Anderson was inducted in 2017. The three of them can now stand together in Hamilton at the hall of fame.

“Eddie Davis and Kelvin Anderson were my best partners. I still talk to those guys all the time,” Childress said.

“Once you bond with the players, you bond with some of the guys on the team and it’s friendship for life.”