September 18, 2023

Whirlwind weekend to remember: Solomon Elimimian enters Hall of Fame

Solomon Elimimian, uncannily assignment-sound, will forever be associated with only one bust — a likeness that honours his career and enshrinement in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. 

A sculpted image of the legendary linebacker was unveiled this past weekend at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, where the shrine is based. 

“They did a fantastic job with the bust,” recalled Elimimian, who starred for the B.C. Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders during a career that consumed most of a decade. 

“That was probably my biggest anxiety: ‘OK, I hope they did a good job with the bust, because this is going to live on forever.’  

“Happily, they did a great job with the bust and it turned out really well. It definitely did look like me.” 

Few players in CFL history have a resume that looks quite like that of Elimimian. 

In 2014, for example, he achieved the rare feat of winning the league’s Most Outstanding Player award while excelling on the defensive side of the ball. The MOP recipient is typically an offensive player. 

He was also named the league’s top defensive player in 2014 and 2016 while compiling credentials that made him a no-brainer of a first-ballot Hall of Famer. 

But when that time inevitably arrived, the celebration involved far more than one person. That was underlined during his acceptance speech. 

“I didn’t think I was going to get emotional, but I did,” Elimimian said. “The reason why I did get emotional was, as I recounted my story and all the accomplishments, I thanked so many people — obviously, my family, my friends, my teammates and my coaches. I was able to tell stories of many people who helped me throughout my journey. 

“When you look at my accomplishments and you look at my story, you see a lot of awards, but what a lot of people don’t see was the amount of adversity that I had to overcome. I could only overcome that by my faith in God and by God providing me with the ingredients to be successful. 

“That was through family. That was through friends. That was through teammates and fantastic coaches. You can go line by line. If I recounted to you all the people who helped me, there would be so many. We’d be talking for weeks, or even months.” 

Six months elapsed between the announcement of this year’s Hall of Fame class and the formal inductions. 

The induction ceremony was held Friday night at the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum.  

On Saturday, Elimimian and his fellow enshrinees — John Bowman, Josh Bourke, Lloyd Fairbanks, Larry Crawford, Jacques Dussault and Larry Smith — were honoured at halftime of a game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. 

“I was signing a lot of autographs and meeting a lot of fans,” said Elimimian, 36. “They’ll tell you stories that you might have forgotten.  

“Just meeting the fans, you realize how special Canadian football is. It impacts the cultural and societal fabric of Canada and it’s impactful past Canadian borders. 

“You see how many people love the CFL and how much of a positive impact Canadian football has on so many people from different walks of life. It’s really a special thing.” 

The same description applies to Elimimian’s final season as a player. 

After being released by the Lions in May of 2019, ending an association with the team that dated back to 2010, he was quickly signed by Roughriders General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations Jeremy O’Day. 

Elimimian proceeded to lead the West Division in defensive tackles (88) despite missing the first three games of the season due to injury. He was also named a divisional all-star while helping Saskatchewan finish first in the West. 

“A shout-out to the fans in Saskatchewan,” Elimimian said. “I love the B.C. Lions fans. They’re world-class fans. The dynamics of Regina were definitely different. They welcomed me with open arms.  

“The whole city shuts down for Rider football and that’s something I’m glad I was able to experience first-hand. It’s a beautiful thing.” 

Elimimian was ticketed to return to the Roughriders for a second year in Green and White, but COVID-19 led to the cancellation of the 2020 CFL season. 

He announced his retirement in February of 2021, but has remained integrally involved in the three-down game as president of the CFL Players’ Association. 

One of the active players — the Blue Bombers’ Adam Bighill — starred alongside Elimimian in the Lions’ linebacking corps. 

Fittingly, Winnipeg’s presence in the Hall of Fame game allowed Bighill to personally pass along congratulations to his close friend. 

That was a bonus for Elimimian during a few days that felt like a whirlwind. 

“Words can’t describe what this weekend meant to me in my life, just having so many people there who I love and who I care about,” he said. “It’s beyond words.  

“I can’t even do it justice, because it’s something that I’ve never experienced before and something that I really wanted to take in. I wanted to take in every second and every moment, because it really is a lifetime achievement.”