Don Matthews – 10 Grey Cups, 231 regular-season victories, fellow Hall of Fame inductee, smart, cantankerous, living on the edge, conniving, successful.
Not many CFL coaches become friends with the reporters who cover them. Most of the time while I worked for the Regina Leader-Post and covered Don during his 22-year career, which included two-and-a-half seasons in Saskatchewan, we weren't exactly friends. By the time he died Wednesday at age 77, we were friends.
We grew past the conflicts and – hopefully I'm not giving myself too much credit here – truly respected each other. I asked him so many questions about football and his answers taught me about the game.
I first met him in Kelowna 30 years ago when he was coaching the B.C. Lions. We kept crossing paths until he moved for a final time to Oregon, where I would call him occasionally to see how he was dealing with cancer. And life. He asked about my family and told me about his sons, his wife and her young son.
He didn't need me to earn his Hall of Fame laurels, but I wouldn't be there without him.