June 8, 2024

Robservations: Celebrating a Lancaster/Mueller land-Marc … from Mueller to mullets … from grandfathers to 30 grand

Marc Mueller’s first regular-season game as the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Offensive Co-ordinator will take place, quite fittingly, in Edmonton.

Commonwealth Stadium was also the site of his iconic grandfather’s final game as the Roughriders’ O.C.

Ron Lancaster’s farewell performance was the stuff of legend.

On Oct. 29, 1978, Lancaster came off the bench at Commonwealth Stadium and quarterbacked Saskatchewan to a come-from-behind, 36-26 CFL victory over Edmonton. The Little General doubled as the O.C. during the latter years of his illustrious tenure in Riderville.

Lancaster then served as the Roughriders’ Head Coach in 1979 and 1980. He returned to the sideline in 1991 as the field boss in Edmonton.

As a result, Commonwealth Stadium became a second home for Mueller during Lancaster’s seven-season tenure (1991 to 1997) with the Eskimos (now Elks).

“A lot of my earliest football memories are in the Commonwealth locker room with my grandfather and the Mandrusiaks — Dwayne, the long-time Equipment Manager, and his sons,” says Mueller, who was born and raised in Regina.

“It’s a pretty cool place. It has always been special to me and it still will be.”

Mueller was only two years old when his late grandpa first coached a regular-season game for Edmonton — at Taylor Field, naturally.

“When I was in kindergarten, we had a show-and-tell and I brought a Gizmo Williams helmet,” says Mueller, a proud graduate of Ethel Milliken Elementary School.

“They asked me where I got it and I said, ‘The locker room.’ They asked me where it was and I said, ‘I don’t know … the locker room.’ All I knew was the Eskimo locker room.

“It was a cool place. I had a pretty privileged childhood and hopefully my kids get a little bit of that as well.”

Mueller and his wife, Jenaya, are the proud parents of Sawyer, 5, and Wallace, 1½.

Sawyer is now at the age where she can appreciate all the tributes to Lancaster in and around Mosaic Stadium, such as the statue that was erected in his honour.

“It’s pretty cool for my daughter to be able to walk by there and see that,” Mueller says. “It’s always important to know where you came from and that’s a big part of it.”

Lancaster came home from Edmonton shortly after that late-October game in 1978 and was named the Roughriders’ Head Coach the following day.

At the time of the appointment, the Canadian football universe was still abuzz about what I contend is an unrivalled storybook ending.

With Lancaster poised to retire as a player, the Roughriders decided to start heir apparent Larry Dick at quarterback for the team’s final two games of 1978.

With the offence faltering in the fourth quarter of an Oct. 22 matchup with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, then-Head Coach Walt Posadowski opted to insert Lancaster into the game.

No. 23 hadn’t even thrown a warmup pass before he was called upon to take a snap.

It did not go well. Some surly spectators, already rankled by the Roughriders’ first losing season since 1961, booed Lancaster in what would be his final appearance as a player at Taylor Field — a 13-7 Winnipeg victory.

Fortunately, one more game remained. It was a meaningless contest, in terms of the standings, yet it turned into my favourite sporting event of all time.

A crowd of 42,673 (including my mother and her 14-year-old non-prodigy of a son) watched Saskatchewan score 17 second-quarter points to assume a 20-11 halftime lead over an Edmonton team that would soon win its first of an unprecedented five consecutive Grey Cup championships.

Edmonton responded by scoring all 15 third-quarter points.

Early in the fourth frame, Posadowski treated fans of both teams to what they were clamouring to see.

In came Lancaster, one final time as a player, to the accompaniment of a standing ovation.

He soon threw his 333rd and final CFL touchdown pass (to Joey Walters) to knot the game at 26-26. Bob Macoritti added the convert.

Shortly thereafter, a Lancaster-led offence turned an Edmonton fumble into six points when he scored on a quarterback sneak.

Everyone in the stands erupted. It was a Lancaster love-in.

Never, ever have I seen a visiting player elicit such a robust reaction after engineering a victory over the home team.

“Yeah,” Lancaster, still choked up over the robust response, told me 30 years later, “that was a good day.”


Having already mentioned a one-time heir apparent (Larry Dick), we turn to someone who makes the hair apparent. (Sorry.)

Welcome to Saskatchewan, A.J. Ouellette!

Along with being one of the CFL’s elite running backs, Ouellette is known for the blonde hair that flows from the back of his helmet.

There was a time, though, when Ouellette didn’t sport a beard, long hair, or even blonde hair.

“In high school, we weren’t allowed to have our hair stick out of our helmet, or the coach was going to cut it, so I’d always had a buzzcut,” says the Roughriders’ No. 45, a graduate of Covington (Ohio) High School and Ohio University.

“In college, I tried it one season. It was the season that I blew my foot out, so I blamed it on the hair.

“It was like (former Seattle Seahawks linebacker) Brian Bosworth. It was spiked up and I had the lines on the side. I was just trying to have fun.

“I shaved it off. Then I got up here (joining the Toronto Argonauts) and the COVID year happened not long after that.

“I decided to grow my hair out again. I just had the regular mullet in the Grey Cup year (of 2022). Then last year came and going into camp, I thought, ‘I need to bring some energy,’ so I bleached it. John Haggerty, the punter, bleached his hair as well. We had fun with it.”

The enjoyment escalated when Ouellette embraced the persona of Thor, complete with a replica of the superhero’s trademark hammer.

“All the Thor comments started up and I realized I was not allowed to dye my hair back after that,” continues Ouellette, 28.

“It has been bleached since. It might stay bleached until retirement. We’ll see.”

Ouellette does not rule out maintaining the lengthy locks long after his playing career is over.

“I might have to keep it to the point where it’s embarrassing for my future kids,” he says with a laugh.

“Hopefully, when they’re in school, the other kids will ask them, ‘Is that your dad with the mullet?’ ”


Seven quarterbacks who have thrown for at least 30,000 yards (or 17 miles) in a CFL career have spent some time with Saskatchewan.

But only two of them have reached the milestone while wearing a Roughriders uniform.

Lancaster surpassed 30,000 yards during a game in Winnipeg on Oct. 15, 1972.

Tom Burgess reached 30 grand when the Roughriders visited the Baltimore Stallions on Oct. 1, 1995.

Burgess is one of 18 CFLers to have passed for at least 30,000 yards in a career. Trevor Harris will soon make it 19.

Harris, the Roughriders’ starting quarterback, is just 116 yards shy of 30,000.

He is a virtual lock to emulate Burgess and Lancaster by reaching 30,000 in a road game.

The other erstwhile Roughriders with 30,000-plus? Henry Burris (63,639), Kevin Glenn (52,867), Lancaster (50,535), Tom Clements (39,041), Kent Austin (36,030) and Darian Durant (31,740).

Although Austin and Durant enjoyed long and successful tenures in Saskatchewan, both of them hit 30,000 while affiliated with another team. Austin accomplished the feat with the B.C. Lions in 1994. Durant breezed past 30,000 as a member of the Montreal Alouettes in 2017.


  • Nice people who deserve a plug: Dr. Rachel Hamilton, Dr. Jatin Bajwa, Peter Husli, Adam Husli, Mason Fine, Brayden Lenius, Marcus Sayles, Darrell Hogg, Stuart Skinner, Paul Maurice, Robert Bell, Eric Noivo, Frank Kovacs, Joshua Bell, C.J. Reavis, Jeff Child, Meagan McLellan, Grant McLellan, Marc Mueller, Lana Mueller, Larry Mueller, Bob Macoritti and A.J. Ouellette.