Pringle runs from exile to Most Outstanding

November 04, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Last May, Mike Pringle was expendable. This November, he's invaluable.

Last spring, he was a Sacramento Gold Miner. This winter, he could be the Canadian Football League's Most Outstanding Player.

It's been the trip of a lifetime for Baltimore's record-setting running back. Pringle's incredible journey reached another milestone yesterday with his selection as the Eastern Division's Most Outstanding Player.

He already has shattered the league's 19-year-old rushing record, and annexed the record for yards from scrimmage, too.

Now comes the acid test. Can he beat Doug Flutie?

The Calgary Stampeders quarterback was named the Western finalist for the fourth straight year by media covering the CFL. For three years in a row, Flutie has won the award.

In Calgary, he's expected to win it again. But not in Sacramento, where Pringle and the CFLs try to clinch the division title tomorrow night.

"I'd be stunned if he's not the MVP," said David Archer, Sacramento quarterback and Pringle's former teammate.

"The only thing that could hurt Mike is he's not playing for a team in Canada. If he doesn't get it, that might be the reason. They still feel it's their game. But he deserves it as much as anybody in the league."

It was a red-letter day for the CFLs, who had Eastern finalists in three categories. Left tackle Shar Pourdanesh will compete with Calgary guard Rocco Romano for the league's Outstanding Offensive Lineman award, and linebacker Matt Goodwin goes against Las Vegas place-kicker Carlos Huerta for Rookie of the Year.

Winners will be announced Nov. 24 in Vancouver, British Columbia, three days before the Grey Cup.

Pourdanesh, who has given up only two sacks all season, beat out Winnipeg tackle Chris Walby in the East. "I'm shocked," he said. "I thought it was nice to be nominated, but that was as far as it'd go."

Goodwin gained notoriety by blocking four kicks, and also has three sacks, four fumble recoveries and a team-high 67 combined tackles.

"It means a lot to me," he said. "I never got an award in my life."

Goodwin also was nominated for the Outstanding Defensive Player, but lost to Hamilton rush end Tim Cofield. The West defensive finalist is Edmonton linebacker Willie Pless.

Pringle's improbable season started with a May trade to Baltimore. He started the year behind Sheldon Canley, then established himself as the league's best runner with eight 100 yards-or-more rushing games.

He broke Willie Burden's 1975 single-season rushing record of 1,896 on Saturday, and needs 99 against Sacramento to become the fourth running back in pro football history to gain 2,000. That elite crowd includes O. J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Herschel Walker. Pringle also needs 177 all-purpose yards to eclipse Mike Clemons' 1990 league record of 3,300 for Toronto.

Flutie has thrown for 5,459 yards and broken his own record with 46 touchdown passes this season. He is averaging 321 passing yards a game, Pringle 112 rushing yards.

The previous rushing record holder says Pringle's accomplishment merits special consideration.

"I know Doug Flutie has thrown for a lot of yards," Burden said, "but how often do you get a rushing record set like this one?"

When Burden set the record in 1975, he was named the league's Outstanding Player. During the past 25 years, only five running backs have claimed the award, though. Clemons, in 1990, was the last.

"Flutie is an outstanding athlete," said Pringle, 27. "To be in the running with him is an honor in itself.

"I worked extremely hard in the off-season. I'm glad to see it paying off like this."

NOTES: Archer, rehabilitating a thumb injury, won't play tomorrow. . . . Pringle, nursing a groin strain, will play, but Stan Petry will replace him on kickoff returns.

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