It is my pleasure to
accept the athlete award on my good friend don’s behalf and
to read his acceptance speech. I know that he is very proud
to be inducted into the Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of
Fame and wanted to be here in person to accept the award.
However, his physical health just wouldn’t allow the long
trip from England to Wetaskiwin.
Here’s what Don has to say.
Unfortunately, I am
not able to attend this award ceremony. It is ironic that i
am haunted by old football injuries that prevent me from
travelling to accept this award in person. Fortunately, in
2009, I was able to attend the ceremony inducting the 1956
Sabre Team into the Hall of Fame.
I would like to
thank my cousin and friend, Ron Layzell, for nominating me
for this award, and also thank the committee for selecting
me into the Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame. It is
also an honour to join the former inductees here in my home
town and Wetaskiwin.
I would like to
congratulate the other nominees that join me here tonight to
receive their respective awards.
Two of the nominees
are well known to me. Both Al and Ross were part of the ‘56
team inducted in 2009. Both Al and i played junior football
with the Edmonton Huskies in 1957, having a successful year
winning the Alberta, B.C. Championship.
I was born in Wetaskiwin in an area called “Dutch
Flats” and at the time
the conditions were very meagre to say the least. I was
raised by my grandmother in this tough part of town. She had
a constant struggle to support my sister and myself. I loved
playing other sports, but my grandmother never could afford
to buy a ball glove or a decent pair of skates. Later in
high school, having access to a pair of used football cleats
was a delight, even if they didn’t fit properly!
The three years of
playing under coaches Norm Brown and Pete Durnavo, and
playing alongside so many outstanding players, had an impact
on preparing me for the professional game. All of the
players were part of the team and treated as equals; no
stars, no heroes, even if some had more natural ability. We
had a number of exceptional athletes during my school years;
some went on to play at higher levels and there were a few
that didn’t that certainly had the ability to do so. Coach
Brown moulded individuals into positions, even if they did
not have natural ability. If they had the desire to play,
they were part of the team.
Playing under Coaches Brown and
Durnavo during my high school years changed me in
many ways. Having a lack of self- confidence in early years,
Brown’s coaching philosophy and manner in dealing with
individuals had a profound effect on my self-confidence and
self-esteem; not only in football, but throughout my working
life and in years to come. High school football in its basic
and simplest form will always stand out as the best time I
ever had as a player. Just a hell of a lot of fun, both on
and off the field, having the ‘odd beer’ or two.
During my high
school years, I would tune into Eskimo games on radio and
listen to Kwong, Bright and the magic of Parker’s running. I
recall the run Parker made against Montreal to win the 1954
Grey Cup. A dream came true in 1959 when I joined all of
these heroes of mine on the playing field. It was a pleasure
to knock heads with guys like Roger Nelson, Bill Smith, Art
Walker and too many more to mention.
During my tenure
with the Esks, I have many great memories of the times on
the field, in the dressing room and off the field, which
will remain confidential!
Normie Kong was my
roommate on a number of occasions during road trips. He had
a reputation of playing pranks on players, so i had to be on
guard at all times. Thankfully, most of his pranks were
directed toward the import players. His sense of humour was
contagious in the dressing room and helped keep the team
relaxed. I understand that Normie went on to better and
Jackie Parker was
not only one of the best ever in the CFL as a player, but as
a person he was equally as good; unselfish and very helpful
with young players, like myself. I recall at one point,
coach Eagle Keys thought I should play offensive
centre. Never having played this position before, Parker took
his time after regular practices to help me with ball
exchanges and other aspects of this position, always so
helpful. On another occasion during a very cool 1962 October
practice, before he was traded to Toronto in 1963, i
misplaced my woollen jersey. Parker let me have his to use.
I kept it for the rest of the season. I think it is still
around Wetaskiwin. Cousin Ron might know!
I consider myself
fortunate to have played with the Eskimos in an era that had
so many legends and hall of famers. The good times and the
memories I had in my five years will always be
treasured, along with the pain, that is inevitable with the
In closing, all that
remains for me to say is that it is a privilege to be
joining my 1956 high school Sabres football team and my high
school coach, Norm Brown, into the Wetaskiwin and County
Sports Hall of Fame.
opening comments made by Colleen Grinde when introducing Don
Don Duncalfe Inductee Page