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Once, the Stallions rode high

Football: Five years ago, a motley group playing a strange version of the sport won the CFL's big prize, the Grey Cup, and the hearts of many in Baltimore.

November 26, 2000|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

He does remember quirky sidelights, like the team practicing on run-down Kirk Field while a bum slept in the press box. And a killer stretch in which the Stallions had to play three games in 10 days, a schedule Matthews calls "inhumane."

No one squawked back then.

"Nothing bothered anybody; we never made an issue of anything," said Matthews, the winningest coach in CFL history. "That team had a mission. They felt it was their destiny to win the Cup."

When the Stallions went north, Matthews veered to Toronto and won back-to-back championships in 1996-97. Now head coach at Edmonton and a veteran of 12 Grey Cup appearances, he still marvels at the attitude, the atmosphere surrounding that Baltimore club.

"A coach can do little things, but the players determine the outcome of games," Matthews said. "They took me on a ride, and I was happy to go along."

Forgotten, the Stallions are not. A bevy of Baltimoreans were to trek to today's Grey Cup game, as they've done every year, displaying banners and jerseys that celebrate their old team.

"I still get birthday cards from Stallions fans," said Brigance, a mainstay on the '95 club who is now a Ravens linebacker. At 31, he returned here this year after four seasons in Miami.

The lone reminder of Baltimore's CFL entry, Brigance has provided closure, of sorts, for fans of the old regime.

"People come up to me all the time saying, `I really enjoyed the Stallions' games and everything you guys did for this city,' " he said. "When I see them at Ravens games, in Stallions T-shirts and hats, it brings a smile to my face.

"Five years ago, I hated to leave Baltimore - that team had so much talent - but as it turned out, the game that kicked me out of this city wound up giving me another job here. God's hand is on everything."

Now, Brigance said, fans are serving up another scenario: "Hey, O. J., we've got the Grey Cup - how 'bout a Super Bowl?"

The thought makes Brigance grin.

"Man, I'd love to be the bridge between those teams."

Where they went

Here's what happened to a majority of the 45 players on the 1995 Grey Cup champions (37 active each game).


Tracy Ham: MVP of the Cup, played four seasons with Montreal, retiring before the 2000 season.

Shawn Jones: Former Georgia Tech standout never played again.

Dan Crowley: Third-stringer with Montreal in '96. Spent two seasons in Italy (semipro) before returning to the CFL as the backup in Edmonton the past two seasons for coach Don Matthews.

Running backs

Mike Pringle: This year, the RB for Montreal was a finalist for the Most Outstanding Player award, which he won in '95 and '98. In '98, he became the fifth pro player to rush for more than 2,000 yards. He is second on the CFL's all-time rushing list.

Robert Drummond: Shared the FB spot. Went to Toronto with Matthews, where he starred for three seasons. Spent the past two seasons with the B.C. Lions.

Peter Tuipulotu: Other FB. Played the '96 season in Saskatchewan, but the CFL's rules limiting the number of non-Canadians on rosters ended his career. Assisted Towson University in '97.


Chris Armstrong: Played four more seasons in the CFL, mostly in Montreal (also spent time in Winnipeg). Retired before the 2000 season

Gerald Alphin: Late pickup during the season (cut by Winnipeg in cost-cutting maneuver). Never played another game after the victory over Calgary.

Shannon Culver: Spent the past five seasons in the Arena League with several teams.

Robert Clark: Retired after the season and has been a guest coach during training camp with Matthews while he was in Toronto.

Offensive line

Shar Pourdanesh: In his second season with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers (he's the third tackle) after starting for the Washington Redskins for three seasons.

Mark Dixon: Played two more seasons in Montreal. In his third season as the Miami Dolphins' starting LG. Possible Pro Bowl pick.

Neal Fort: Still the RT for Montreal, playing in all but four games in his seven-year CFL career.

Mike Withycombe: CFL's top lineman in '95. Spent '96 season in Montreal and '97 with the B.C. Lions.

Nick Subis: Center was victim of Canadian quota rules in '96 and never played again.

Defensive line

Elfrid Payton: Sack specialist plays for Winnipeg. Played in Montreal ('96-99). Failed in an NFL tryout with New Orleans in '96 before returning to the CFL.

Grant Carter: Strong-side end is MLB for Don Matthews in Edmonton. Also played with Montreal and Winnipeg since leaving Baltimore. Also failed in an NFL tryout with San Diego in '97.

Jearld Baylis: Star NT played briefly for Ottawa in '96 and the Arena League in '97.

Demetrious Maxie: Plays in Saskatchewan after stops in Montreal and Toronto. Named to CFL All-Star team for second straight year.

Willie Whitehead: The fourth DT (active for just two games in two seasons in Baltimore) is a reserve DE for the NFL's New Orleans Saints.


O. J. Brigance: Leads the Ravens in special teams tackles. Had 82 special teams stops in four seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Pro Bowl alternate in 1998.

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