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Super Bowl XLV rooted in 1976 Grey Cup

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BY JOHN WILLIAMS
 
Aaron Rodgers may be competing in his first Super Bowl.
 
But after six NFL seasons, the 27-year-old is more than “championship-ready” to lead the Green Bay Packers into “Super Bowl XLV." And like so many NFL pivots before him - Rodgers’ journey to the “BIG SHOW” has been carefully procured by an older, more experienced mentor.
 
Tom Clements’ gaudy resume as an NFL assistant coach transcends five of the six seasons that Rodgers has worn the “green and gold.” While helping prolong the career of the legendary Brett Favre - Clements has helped bridge the gap between the “legendary Favre” and a possible “legend in the making” in Rodgers.
 
He’s also validated those three simple letters that appear on that gaudy resume- CFL!! Yes, I know…that silly little league north of the 49th parallel whose cachet to the NFL is comparable to that of a “third cousin” and the “family patriarch.”
 
An All-American quarterback with the “Fighting Irish of Notre Dame” in the early 1970s - Clements’ 12-year CFL career between 1975 and 1987 - includes Grey Cup (the CFL equivalent of the Super Bowl) victories in 1976 and 1984. Sandwiched between those Grey Cup years is a one-year stint with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1980 - in which Clements never saw the field.
 
Yet here he stands - one win away from standing “center stage” - while adding a Super Bowl band to a pair of CFL rings.
 
Clements is one of a handful of successful NFL coaches - “past and present” - whose roots are firmly planted in Canada. (Former Indianapolis Colts  DC and 2007 Super Bowl winner, “Ron Meeks” - a Tiger Cat DB from the mid-1970s - is another.)
 
But it’s not just the “coaching” accomplishments of Clements that stand out to me - it’s his “playing” career in the CFL as well.
 
And I remember it all too well!!”
 
I was a 20-year-old freshman at York University back in the fall of 1976. I didn’t care much for the Toronto based school nor the Toronto Argonaut fans.
 
But on the Sunday morning of November 28th at around 11 am.- my roommate “Wayne Shier” secured a Grey Cup ticket for me. Great roommate, great guy!!! The big-game was slated for Toronto’s CNE Stadium later that afternoon between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Clements’ led Ottawa Rough Riders.
 
I know….a league with only nine teams - two of them boasting the same name - only different spelling. Only in Canada, ah!!
 
But it’s not the name of the team that makes the team great. It's the names of the great players who define the team‘s greatness.  (Thankyou JFK.) And Clements would serve notice that day that he was destined to become one of Canada’s all-time greats.
 
With his team trailing 20-16 with a minute to go - Clements’ 24-yard pass to Tony Gabriel secured a 23-20 victory for Ottawa and forever etched the Notre Dame star in the annals of Grey Cup folklore en route to the CFL Hall Of Fame.
 
It’s the only Grey Cup I’ve ever witnessed in person. And I certainly witnessed a classic.
 
Clements would hoist the Grey Cup again - this time as a member of the 1984 Winnipeg Blue Bombers. A 300-yard passing performance that day solidified a 47-17 victory for the Bombers over Hamilton along with game MVP honors for Clements.
 
The Notre Dame, law school graduate is also an honors graduate of the CFL game. And while he held the clipboard for the entire 1980 season as a back-up with the Kansas City Chiefs - the notes he took would now read like an NFL playbook.
 
Much to the beneficiary of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Here’s hoping Super Bowl XLV rivals the Grey Cup classic of 1976.
 
Green Bay 24
Pittsburgh 17

 

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