Amid the joy and celebrations, there were moments of reflection and loss.
At his dressing room stall, Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ running back Chris Garrett, the star of Sunday’s East Division final, choked back his words when talking about the game ball he’d just received from his teammates.
The ball, he promised, was going to the family of a lost friend and former Ohio University teammate, Marcellis Williamson. At 23, in the prime of life, Williamson died in April of a heart attack. Garrett and Williamson had known each other and played together for years.
The game ball, Garrett said, was going to be passed along to the Williamson family.
In Vancouver, as the B.C. Lions commenced their mauling of the Edmonton Eskimos in the West Division final, Geroy Simon made sure his touchdown catch meant something more than six points. He carried the football back to the B.C. bench and gave it to team trainer Bill Reichelt, whose 18-year-old son had died a week earlier in a car crash.
Reichelt put a strip of adhesive tape over the ball, wrote his son’s name on it then stowed it away for safe keeping. On Monday, the entire Lions’ team attended a memorial service for Dylan.
With this Grey Cup match-up pitting the Lions against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, there will be another personal loss to consider, the passing of former assistant coach Richard Harris.
Harris had worked with the Lions and their head coach Wally Buono. He was working for the Bombers and their head coach Paul LaPolice. In July, Harris finished practice and went inside his office at the team’s complex. Within minutes, he suffered a heart attack that would take his life. He was 63 and much loved.
Grey Cup week is always a fun week, a time to revel in something as wonderfully unique as three downs and a visit to the Spirit of Edmonton bash, better known as Staggerville. But for a few moments, at least, this one begins with a heavy heart for those who left when there was so much more to come.