For a moment, it looked like Rob Bagg's dream of winning the CFL's biggest prize was finally over.
In an Aug. 17 game against the Montreal Alouettes, the Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver went out on a blocking assignment and went down in a heap, clutching his left knee.
Bagg left the field in tears, seeming to signal the end of a CFL career that barely managed to get started.
But two days later, video emerged of Bagg running the stairs at Mosaic Stadium, and not even two weeks after that he was back in the lineup for the Labour Day Classic, making one catch for seven yards as the Riders downed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Bagg finished the 2013 regular season fifth on the Riders with 430 yards receiving, and will have the chance Sunday to help his team finish first when Saskatchewan hosts the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 101st Grey Cup at Mosaic Stadium.
"Getting back on the field is one thing but, really, your main driving factor is you want to be able to tell your kids and grandkids that you were the best in the CFL one year," he said.
Bagg will be in uniform Sunday for his first championship game since 2009, when Saskatchewan lost to Montreal after a too-many-men penalty cost them the game with no time on the clock.
For Bagg, that loss was compounded further by the broken collarbone he suffered following a hit from Chip Cox late in the fourth quarter.
"I was definitely aware of the situation and, if anything, it made the injury more painful because it was just two defeats rather than one," said Bagg. "But I never really think about that injury. I think about the opportunity that we screwed up."
His first shot at redemption was derailed late in the 2010 season when he tore the ACL in his right knee, causing him to miss the Riders' playoff drive and loss in the Grey Cup rematch with Montreal.
Bagg missed all of 2011 after reinjuring the ligament prior to the next season's training camp and played only three games in 2012 before tearing up his other knee, which also required season-ending surgery.
"I don't really know what keeps him going at times, but after everything he's been through he's definitely worked harder than anyone I've ever met in this sport," said fellow Riders receiver Weston Dressler. "He's put in the time, he's put in effort to get himself back on the field on separate occasions, many different times. So just to see him out there and get a chance to play in this game again, it's nice to see that."
As candidates to be the first to hoist the Grey Cup go, Bagg would be a prime one.