HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Quintessential quarterback Chris Flynn led many offensive drives and tossed a record number of touchdown passes during his illustrious career at Saint Mary’s University.
But his No. 1 memory, which matches his jersey number from 1987-90, was his final drive and final TD pass on his home field in Halifax.
As the clock ticked towards the final minute of the 1990 Atlantic Bowl (CIAU, now U Sports, semifinal), the Buckingham, Que. pivot needed to march the Huskies 90 yards for a converted touchdown to upset the Western Ontario Mustangs, the then-undefeated defending national champion.
Standing 25 yards from the end zone, Flynn approached his centre for a second-down play, needing four yards for a first down. But there were only 13 seconds remaining in regulation time.
Flynn took the snap, dropped back, gave a quick pump and lofted a perfect end-zone strike to slotback Anthony Williams, who caught the ball while looking back over his head reminiscent of Willie Mays’ catch 67 years ago in the opening game of baseball’s 1954 World Series on Sept. 29, 1954. The Huskies’ convert was good for a 31-30 victory over Western.
Despite a separated right, throwing shoulder, which was frozen before the game, Flynn’s pinpoint TD pass to the right sideline area of the end zone sent the Huskies to their second Vanier Cup national championship in three years.
That special moment was highlighted two years ago, when Saint Mary’s University retired the first jersey number in its 217-year history and bestowed that honour on Flynn for his outstanding Huskies career.
But since Huskies Stadium looks much different today than it did 31 years ago, there was no place to hang his No. 1 jersey for all to see.
That special Flynn-to-Williams TD moment was relived again this football season, when Saint Mary’s athletic department officials found the right way to commemorate the retirement of Flynn’s No. 1 jersey.
On that sacred patch of artificial turf where Flynn connected with Williams, the university has spray painted a large, bold 1 with the name FLYNN underneath in capital letters.
“It’s a great honour,” Flynn, 54, said in a phone interview this week. “I’m flattered. I didn’t think by going to Saint Mary’s University that I’d have my name and number in the end zone and my jersey retired.”
Flynn, who was convinced he was going to Bishop’s University before visiting Saint Mary’s on a whim during that 1987 March school break, had his jersey retired in the spring of 2019. It took several years before Flynn and university officials could agree to a suitable time for a jersey retirement ceremony.
Flynn, who lives in Mayo, Que., just north of Buckingham, couldn’t attend the Huskies’ Homecoming game earlier this month, but “I will try next year to get a picture of me and the logo.”
When Flynn visited Saint Mary’s for the first time as a CEGEP student/quarterback from Champlain College, he was immediately impressed with the stadium, artificial turf field and wanted to make the Huskies a winner. Saint Mary’s had a losing record from 1974-87.
In his four years, Flynn sparked the Huskies to four Atlantic conference titles, two Atlantic Bowl victories and two Vanier Cup appearances, losing to Calgary Dinos 52-23 in 1988 and the Saskatchewan Huskies 24-21 in 1990. He missed the 1988 national championship game because of a skull fracture.
The first-ever and only three-time Hec Crighton Trophy winner as the top university football player, Flynn was a three-time All-Canadian and was the first player inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2011 for his university gridiron accomplishments. He holds the CIAU (U Sports) record for a career 87 touchdown passes.
Flynn, who is a part-time coach with the Philemon Wright High School football team in Gatineau, was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on the same day as his uncle Ken Lehmann, who played eight years with the Ottawa Rough Riders. Hall officials didn’t realize the two were related at the time of their inductions.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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