WINNIPEG—Right to the end, it was vintage Milt Stegall.
“Guess I’ll just get it out of the way: Milt Stegall has never done any banned substances, no steroids, nothing,” the colourful Stegall quipped yesterday as he officially retired to cap an illustrious 14-year CFL career—his wife and two sons seated beside him.
Arguably the league’s greatest receiver, he also holds CFL records for most TDs in a season (23 in 2002), average yards per catch in a season (26.5 in 1997), and most games with a receiving TD (105).
“I have enough stored up right now where I can really ride into the sunset and really enjoy and not be sad that it’s over, but be happy that I got a chance to go through it,” Stegall said.
“It was a great experience and I’ll miss it, but I’m not sad it’s over.
“I’m happy that I actually got a chance to experience all these things,” he stressed.
The only achievement missing from the Cincinnati native’s stellar football résumé was a Grey Cup championship. He appeared in the CFL title game in 2001 and ’07 when the Bombers lost to Calgary and Saskatchewan, respectively.
However, Stegall said that’s not a regret he’ll carry.
“My legacy has nothing to do with what I did on the football field, it was just a plateau that I used to go on and do bigger and better things,” Stegall said of his involvement with people in the community.
“Football didn’t make me who I am,” he stressed. “It was something that I did and now I move on.”
Stegall, the CFL’s outstanding player in 2002, said he realized the 2008 season would be his last when he struggle to regain his form following knee surgery in May.
Stegall missed training camp and six of the first seven regular-season games, finishing with 30 catches for 470 yards and three touchdowns.
A highlight, though, was breaking Allen Pitts’ all-time receiving yards record of 14,891 on Sept. 12 in Toronto.
Of course, Stegall did it in style. He tied the record with a 16-yard TD catch (his first of the season), then smashed the mark with a brilliant 92-yard touchdown grab.
Stegall broke the CFL all-time TD record of 137 shared by Mike Pringle and George Reed in 2007 after surpassing Pitts’s all-time TD reception record of 117 in 2005.
Team president and CEO Lyle Bauer also announced Stegall will go immediately into the Bombers’ Hall of Fame this summer as its lone inductee.
“Every time I see somebody with an [No.] 85 jersey on, it’s still hard to believe I’m the reason they have that jersey on,” Stegall said. “It’s overwhelming.”