CFL star Pinball Clemons speaks at Gala
Rouses crowd during lengthy speech
Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017 09:30 am
MICHAEL "PINBALL" CLEMONS
GALA GUEST SPEAKER
He was known as “Pinball” because of his football style, but legendary CFL superstar Michael Clemons made it his speaking style Friday night (March 24) during his keynote address at the 2017 Olds College Gala.
From a story about a taxi driver chauffeuring the pope, to another about the Sistine chapel paintings, from football recollections to philosophical meanderings, from slam poetry to gospel preaching to halting whispers to rabble-rousing – like a proper pinball, he was all over the place.
“Our goal this evening is to find the sweet spot,” Clemons said, opening with a nod to one such sweet spot already found that evening by the announcement of a $16-million donation for a new agricultural centre at the college.
Coming down off the stage within seconds, he spent the next 50 minutes searching for that sweet spot himself, bouncing between tables and dinner guests, while his speech bounced between topics, and his delivery bounced between tones.
Hailing from Florida, and having spent the entirety of his CFL career – both as a player and a coach – in Toronto, where he still lives, Clemons seemed an unlikely dinner guest at an agriculture college in rural Alberta.
Blayne Meek, manager of corporate communications and marketing at the college, said the reason Clemons was chosen to speak at this year’s gala was twofold. He is a great speaker with a super energy, she said, but moreover, despite his small size and build, he was a CFL superstar.
Clemons, who barely cracks five feet five inches, played 12 seasons for the Argos, then went on to coach them for seven more. Meek said this is a nice parallel for Olds College, a small institution in a small town
“We regularly punch above our weight class,” she said.
Clemons also has ties with Mark McLoughlin, vice-president for advancement at the college, who was a former Calgary Stampeder and is active in community involvement and stay-in-school initiatives.
Clemons said he’s taken cues from McLoughlin, whom he called “a little bit of a mentor,” when it comes to community service and education. Clemons now runs his own organization, the Pinball Clemons Foundation, which focuses on empowering youth through education.
“Football made a big impact in my life,” he said during the address, “but education made all the difference.”
Between calls for claps and chants from the crowd, Clemons finally landed on his own sweet spot, after remarking how the auctioneers on stage before him called out winners by name.
“You’re not a number here,” he said. “There’s a crazy humanity that exists here. And I love it!”