While it is generally agreed by football observers that Eric Lapointe is the greatest player ever to don the garnet and gold colours, many others have taken starring roles while the team performed under the radar.
It has recently been discovered that no fewer than 11 former Mounties have gone on to play with various levels of success in the Canadian Football League, while dozens of others have been drafted but never pursued a professional career.
Invariably, the Mounties have been successful in having a few national-caliber players in their lineup but due to numerous reasons they have seldom been able to build a powerful starting group with plenty of depth. It is true they were successful in reaching the Vanier Cup final on two occasions and presented impressive lineups on each occasion. However, even in those instances they were led by a handful of over-performers in order to not only win the Atlantic Conference championship but to continue with victories over Ontario and Western Conference titleholders in order to advance to Toronto.
When remembering the 1984 championship squad, one would think of an awesome offensive line led by the likes of George Fotopoulos and Peter Ayer and a strong aerial game spearheaded by quarterback Jim Tierney and receiver Ian MacDonald. On the defensive side were such stalwarts as Bloyce Bulman, Kent MacDonald and John Grass as well as Dave Henry and a strong secondary led by Larry Oglesby, Peter Winters and Peter Estabrooks. The nucleus of that successful group was garnered from the Moncton-Sackville area, with no fewer that 17 top-notch locals in the lineup.
Then, the 1991 Mounties had been constructed by discovering a largely untapped CEGEP league in Quebec – a group of high school graduates who had spent one or two seasons playing in a form of prep-school situation. First, coach Jacques Dussault and then coach Marc Loranger were able to tap into this lucrative market and came up with a vast array to play on both sides of the ball. Of course, Grant Keany was the "money man" and a kicker by the name of Ron Squires kept punting them into decent field position.
One doesn't need to explain why it has been so difficult over the years to build a dynasty but the Mount Allison alumni know all too well. Mostly it has been a lack of will on the part of university officials to provide top-of-the-line facilities, leaving the coaches to fend for themselves in locating and recruiting quality student-athletes. Coach Dussault often cautioned others during his absence to steer any prospects away from the weight training facility because of its almost total inadequacy.
Now to get back to those who broke through the glass ceiling and had the interest, drive, determination and desire to prove they had the talent to play at a high level. Rick Black came to the Mounties with Gus MacFarlane and was a "horse" for four seasons. He was drafted by Ottawa in 1963 and was their first string fullback for six seasons, earning top billing and left an indelible mark on the team and the league. While in Sackville he was also an outstanding member of the swim team, ranked number one in his events.
Black was selected to the quarter century all-Mountie team in 1991 along with Bill Blair at tight end. Blair was chosen by the Toronto Argonauts in 1965 after a fine and productive career with the Mounties. He was recruited by MacFarlane during the time that athletics headed for a decline. This came following a decision by the university to place all its eggs in one basket and place academic excellence above all else.
The first to make the jump to the CFL from here was quarterback George Tsonos from Montreal. The powerful passer had a strong contingent around him with Harry (The Horse) Haukkala and receivers like Bob Winsor to catch. When he went with Montreal it was as backup QB and slot and he enjoyed a few good years.
Ernest (Skip) Eaman was another MacFarlane recruit from Montreal and the outstanding running back was an instant hit who later went to Queens where he was equally as outstanding. While here he gained some fame as the on-side man on punts, often racing down to make the recovery and setting the Mounties in good field position. He was taken by Ottawa in 1971 and enjoyed three good years before retiring to enter business.
Terry Baker, a kicking wizard who performed for the Mounties and later at Acadia, was taken by Ottawa in 1990 and enjoyed a long and successful career doing the punting and kicking for Ottawa, Saskatchewan, Toronto and Montreal where he wound up his career.
Safety specialist Philippe Girard was taken by the Edmonton Eskimos about the same time as Lapointe got the call from Edmonton. Girard enjoyed a couple of fine seasons in the west and returned to Sackville during the 2001 debacle in order to help straighten out the ship following their worst defeat in history due to a lack of players following a period of non-recruiting. Meanwhile, Lapointe went on to lead the Tiger Cats to the Grey Cup in 1999 and became the top rusher in the championship contest. He had been released earlier by Edmonton and following a trade from Hamilton to Toronto ended up in his hometown of Montreal where he gained considerable fame and respect. During this time he began his financial consulting business, which has grown and keeps him busy.
Sebastien (Seb) Roy was the man around whom the Mountie defense was constructed from his middle linebacking position and, as expected, he made the transition to Winnipeg Rough Riders in 2003, ending his career with his hometown of Montreal.
Mark Irvin, a steady if unspectacular kicker, ended up as the key man on field goals and converts with Ottawa in 2005. And more recently, Awasi Antwi was snatched up by the Calgary Stampeders three seasons ago and remains one of the country's special team specialists. And it was only a year ago that Mike Filer, the man behind whom the Mounties ran the ball, went from Calgary to Hamilton, where he remains.
There are many observers who believe several other Mounties – people like Barry Cozac, Matt Gauthier, Grant Keany, Gary Ross, Kelly Hughes, and Ed Rieger – could have played professional football had they so desired, but they opted to pursue other interests.
A large number of other Mounties have been drafted by CFL teams over the years only to make other decisions. Local players like Derek Fury, Mark Bohan, Bruce McMillan and the late Bloyce Bulman received the call, considered a notch above the rest, which is a tribute to local coaches who provided them with the skills to play at a high level.
Could there be one or two more potential candidates hovering in the wings? Possibly Donovan Saunders? Or even some among the 2013 recruiting class coach Kelly Jeffrey is attempting to convince to come to Sackville?