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Moon overjoyed as CFL quarterback, builder are inducted

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When Warren Moon gets inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame at a gala in November, it’s only fitting that his coach from his great days with the Edmonton Eskimos – Hugh Campbell – will go in with him.

The two are inexorably linked.

It was Campbell who saw past the colour of Moon’s skin and saw not just a talented arm, but a football brain which could break down plays, read defences and make sure to use all his teammates; a college graduate who could lead a team of veterans.

“Warren was a little bit shy coming in,” said Campbell, who enters the hall as a builder. “He had been well coached. The hidden thing about him was – and you had to be around him to see that – was just how intelligent he was about the game of football.

“He had all the skills, all the potential to be the great quarterback he became. But he was a team player. It was about winning, it wasn’t about numbers.”

Together, Moon and Campbell won five straight Grey Cups, cementing their places in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Then both left for the American game. Together. Campbell came back, to serve as GM of the Eskimos. Moon put together another hall of fame career playing mostly with the Houston Oilers, breaking down the colour barrier that was built around the quarterback position.

“That’s one of things I’m most proud of in my career,” said Moon, who spent 17 years in the NFL. “I was able to make it through a time where being an African-American in that position wasn’t that popular. I was able to stick to my guns and make it through adversity and perform to the expectations I had of myself.

“That started because of the opportunities I had to play in Canada, and have success, and create confidence in myself that I could take it to the next level.”

Moon says the likes of Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper have thanked him for opening doors, and opening eyes, in proving blacks can be quarterbacks.

Moon and Campbell worked their five Grey Cups (1978-82) in Edmonton, where a young hockey player and Eskimos fan named Mark Messier would go on to win five Stanley Cups with the Oilers and then one more with the Rangers, ending New York’s 54-year championship drought.

Messier, too, is heading to the hall. Also going in: women’s hockey pioneer Angela James, Olympic kayaker Caroline Brunet, basketball coach Ken Shields and standardbred driver John Campbell.

“Those are some big names in Canadian sports. It’s a privilege to be in a class like that,” said Campbell, the only one of the bunch still actively competing. “Winning never gets old for anybody that’s in competitive sports,” said Campbell. “That’s why you compete. That’s your nature, your makeup. It never gets old. It means you’re playing, and your plan was executed perfectly. When that happens it’s a good feeling.”

© 2009 Torstar Syndication Services. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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