Inducting Dan Ferrone into the CFL Hall of Fame is almost a no-brainer. The question is, what category do you place him in? Player, Coach, Builder, Leader, all of the above?
After a distinguished 12 year playing career (11 with the Argos), he went on to serve with the Argos as O-line Coach, VP Football Operations, and eventually club President. In between, he was also President of the CFL Players Association.
With so much history in the CFL, and so many accomplishments, there is a multitude of memories. But it was the 1991 Grey Cup championship team that had the magic. “1991 was a different year in Toronto,” explains Ferrone. “There were great players, there was a great atmosphere – it was a Cinderella story.”
That was the year that Wayne Gretzky, John Candy (RIP) and Bruce McNall bought the Argos from previous owner Harry Ornest. They immediately made headlines by signing Heisman Trophy finalist Rocket Ismail from Notre Dame to an $18.4 million salary over four years – up to that point, the largest contract ever offered to a CFL or NFL player.
This was truly one of the great Argo teams of all time. Matt Dunigan quarterbacked the team featuring other offensive stars such as Pinball Clemons, Paul Masotti, and Darrell K. Smith. Ferrone, then in his 11th year in the CFL anchored a strong offensive line along with fellow Canadian Chris Schultz. The defence was equally loaded with all-stars, Carl Brazley, Rodney Harding, Don Moen, Reggie Pleasant and Don Wilson.
Argos dominated in the regular season, compiling a 13-5 record. They smothered Winnipeg 42-3 in the Eastern final, and went on to meet Calgary in the Grey Cup. That game brought more mystique to the Argos legend, as the Rocket returned a kick-off 87 yards for a touchdown, and Matt Dunigan played the game with a broken collarbone. Argos won 36-21.
“The 1991 team was simply extraordinary,” says Ferrone. “Gretzky, Candy and McNall were so prominent in Toronto that they brought a lot of attention to the Argos. And going into the locker room, it was like you were surrounded by stars.”
The following year, Dunigan left for Winnipeg, Rocket became frustrated and the team fell to 6-12. Ferrone finished the season, and then called it quits, capping one of Argos’ finest careers. In 2006, his #69 jersey was given a permanent home above the field at the Rogers Centre, and he was named an “All-time Argo.”