Cornerstones were established for the CFL Players’ Association’s Tom Pate Memorial Award when the first two recipients were George Reed (1976) and Ron Lancaster (1977).
Brett Lauther became the latest Saskatchewan Roughrider to join the illustrious list of honourees when he was presented with the award on Thursday night in Hamilton.
Each year, the honour is bestowed upon a member of the CFLPA who demonstrates supreme sportsmanship and exemplary contributions to his team and community.
“My name shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as (Reed and Lancaster), but it’s definitely pretty cool to win an award that those guys won,” said Lauther, the Roughriders’ full-time placekicker since 2018.
“I don’t think I’ll ever win another award again that those guys could have won, because of the level of skill and the type of humans they were. It’s something that someday I’ll look back and reflect on.
“It’s just a collaborative effort and a reflection of all the hard work the people do behind the scenes (in the Roughriders’ organization). That’s the only reason I’m getting something like this.”
Lauther is the seventh Roughriders player to receive the award, following Reed, Lancaster, Ken McEachern (1981), Jerry Friesen (1985), Richie Hall (1990) and the team’s current General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations, Jeremy O’Day (2008).
Lancaster, Reed and McEachern were with the Roughriders when Pate tried out for the team in 1975.
Then a rookie linebacker out of the University of Nebraska, Pate impressed the Roughriders’ coaches during training camp and the pre-season.
It appeared that Pate would begin the 1975 regular season as a starter before the Calgary Stampeders surprisingly released linebacker Roger Goree, who had been named a CFL All-Star in 1974.
Then-Roughriders GM Ken Preston promptly made a waiver claim for Goree, whose arrival in Regina bumped Pate.
Pate quickly resurfaced with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, for whom he played in 12 games.
Against Calgary on Oct. 18, 1975, Pate was critically injured during the fourth quarter of a game at McMahon Stadium. He lapsed into a coma and passed away three days later, at age 23.
“Each and every year, I make sure that I tell his story so the rookies or the younger players or the American players know who Tom Pate was and what the Award is about,” said Lauther, a veteran CFLPA representative with the Roughriders.
“I stood up in front of the room this year with the guys before the team voted on the team nominees and had a five-minute speech prepared to let everyone know.
“It’s good to spread the word and make sure guys know the history of the league and who he was.”
At that time, Lauther could not have imagined that he would be the next recipient, but he was soon recognized for his tireless contributions to the community and the players’ association.
“I couldn’t believe it at the time,” he said. “I was a little bit shocked.
“I was super-appreciative and grateful, because it gives you a platform for a second or two to pay homage to and thank everyone who has gotten you to where you are today. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
“It’s definitely not an award that I’m just going to accept myself. It’s a team award. I’m just a reflection of the whole organization and everyone around me.
“It’s a thrill and an honour to get it, but it’s an award for all of us — my family, my friends and this team — and it’s everyone’s to share.”
BRETT LAUTHER’S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
(CFL Awards; Nov. 16, 2023; Avalon Theatre; Niagara Falls, Ont.)
“I stand before you today with immense gratitude and humility as I accept this award. It’s truly a privilege to be standing here, surrounded by so many talented individuals who have made remarkable contributions across the CFL.
“I want to express my deepest appreciation to the CFLPA for this incredible honour, especially Solomon Elimimian and Brian Ramsay.
“To be recognized tonight is truly a dream come true and I am profoundly grateful for the faith and confidence you guys have shown in me.
“I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to my family and friends who have been the pillars of my strength and support throughout this journey. Your unwavering encouragement and belief in my abilities has been instrumental in this moment. This award is as much yours as it is mine.
“None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Saskatchewan Roughrider Foundation.
“Your passion and creativity and tireless efforts have contributed significantly to the success we celebrate today. I’m proud to be a part of such an incredible group of individuals and I accept this award on behalf of our collective achievements.
“To all those who have believed in me, supported me and contributed to my growth, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
“This award serves as a reminder that success is not an individual pursuit but a collaborative effort. It’s a reflection of the energy and commitment of everyone who has been part of my journey.
“I’m committed to using this recognition as a platform to inspire others to contribute positively to our community and to make a meaningful impact in Saskatchewan.
“In closing, I want to express my sincere gratitude once again. This is not just about past achievements but a motivation to strive for greater heights in the future.
“I’m excited for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. I’m grateful for your support as it propels me forward.
“Thank you for this incredible honour.”