July 8, 2024

A great Guy! 1989 Grey Cup hero warmly welcomed back to Regina

Mark Guy, a clutch contributor to the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ second Grey Cup win, attended Thursday’s game and had the pleasure of watching a version of himself.

On Nov. 26, 1989, Guy made back-to-back receptions on the final possession of the fourth quarter to set up a 35-yard Dave Ridgway field goal that gave Saskatchewan a 43-40 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Toronto.

Guy, now 60, returned to Regina last week and paid his first visit to new Mosaic Stadium, where the Roughriders defeated the Toronto Argonauts 30-23. (Guy’s godson, Wynton McManis, is a star linebacker with the Argos.)

Saskatchewan secured the victory after Mitch Picton, emulating Mark Guy, made back-to-back 12-yard receptions on second-and-long in the final two minutes.

Fittingly, Guy was present on Throwback Thursday, resplendent in a green and white jersey that included his number (9) and surname (unforgettable, for anyone who is familiar with the Grey Cup classic from 1989).

“That,” Guy said before Thursday’s game, “was a beautiful year.”

Albeit one that had its rough patches.

After a 4-1 start, the Roughriders endured a four-game losing streak.

The final game of that skein also marked Guy’s on-field debut with the Roughriders.

He was activated for a Sept. 3, 1989 home date with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after spending the first eight games of the season on the practice roster,

The 1989 Labour Day Classic included four players who had played at a small college — the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Guy was joined on the Taylor Field turf by linebacker Romel Andrews, receiver William Mackall and linebacker Paul Randolph. The latter three UT Martin graduates helped the Blue Bombers win 28-20 on the first Sunday of September in 1989.

Over the course of seven regular-season appearances as a CFL freshman, Guy caught 10 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown.

Then came the playoffs, which began for the Roughriders when they registered a come-from-behind, 33-26 victory over the host Calgary Stampeders in the West Division semi-final.

Guy had been deactivated for that game, in which the Roughriders started a converted quarterback (Jeff Bentrim) at one of the four receiving positions. Jeff Fairholm (returning from injury), Don Narcisse and James Ellingson were Saskatchewan’s other starting pass-catchers for the playoff opener.

Guy was back on the active roster, replacing Bentrim, when the Roughriders travelled to the Alberta to face a supposedly invincible Edmonton team with a Grey Cup berth at stake.

Edmonton had posted 16 victories — a CFL regular-season record that was not equalled until the 2023 Argonauts accomplished that feat — whereas the Roughriders were a 9-9.

The underdogs had their day, winning 32-21 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Guy caught one pass for seven yards, returned two punts for 11 yards, and gained 25 yards on one kickoff return.

Those stats hardly foreshadowed the brilliance that was to come one week later.

As part of a pass-catching quartet that also included three future SaskTel Plaza of Honour inductees (Fairholm, Narcisse and Ray Elgaard) and two eventual Canadian Football Hall of Famers (Narcisse and Elgaard), Guy led the Roughriders in receiving yards (100) in the Grey Cup win over Hamilton. He also returned four kickoffs for 127 yards.

Three of Guy’s four catches came in the fourth quarter.

On second-and-11, Kent Austin found Guy deep down the left sideline for a 53-yard gain. The long-distance strike set up a 25-yard Ridgway field goal that put Saskatchewan ahead 37-30 at 1:12 of the final frame.

The Roughriders’ lead endured until 14:16 of the fourth quarter, when Paul Osbaldiston’s convert of a Tony Champion TD created a 40-40 tie.

On third-and-goal from the nine-yard line, Champion had made one of the most spectacular plays in Grey Cup history — a leaping, twisting catch of a Mike Kerrigan aerial — despite having suffered broken ribs earlier in the game.

And get this: Champion and Guy had been teammates in college.

“It’s not a big school, but we had some very good athletes at UT Martin at that time,” Guy recalled.

“I was very fortunate to be able to play with and train with Tony Champion. When he was in college, I was a defensive back. I wasn’t a receiver.

“When I came into the league as a receiver, I had only played one year at that position — my senior year in college. We had an athlete who passed away, so they moved me to offence, and that’s how I was able to play wide receiver.”

As a first-year CFLer in 1986, Champion had helped Hamilton win a Grey Cup.

He returned to the big game in 1989 as the East Division’s Most Outstanding Player, having caught 95 passes for 1,656 yards and 15 touchdowns during the regular season.

Champion added eight catches for 106 yards and two scores in the 77th Grey Cup game. Both majors were registered after he suffered a rib injury early in the proceedings.

“I saw Tony probably about 10 years ago and I said, ‘I know you were just trippin’!’ ” Guy said with a laugh. “He said, ‘No, my ribs were really broken!’ He pulled up his shirt and he showed me his ribs and they were still dysfunctional. I said, ‘Man, you were really hurt!’

“He made some amazing catches. Tony was one of the best athletes I have ever played against and with.

“He had spectacular athletic ability. He could go up and just slam a basketball. I played basketball with him, too, and he was a pretty amazing guy.”

The amazing Guy would be on display after Champion’s seemingly impossible fourth-quarter TD catch.

Osbaldiston’s convert was followed by a kickoff that Tim McCray returned 23 yards to the Roughriders’ 36-yard line.

After an incompletion on first down, Austin spotted Elgaard near the right sideline. A perfectly placed pass produced a 20-yard gain. As a bonus, Elgaard was able to step out of bounds and stop the clock with 25 seconds remaining.

Cue Mark Guy, who promptly produced back-to-back first downs with receptions of 18 and 10 yards.

Guy held on to the 18-yarder while absorbing contact from safety Jim Rockford, cornerback Will Lewis and linebacker Frank Robinson.

“When I ran my route, I didn’t know (Austin) was going to throw the ball to me,” Guy said. “I knew I was the hot guy, though.

“When I came across, I was thinking, ‘That linebacker is coming across and he’s going to hit me. Lewis is behind me and he’s going to hit me. That free safety (Rockford) is over there and he’s going to hit me.’

“I thought, ‘Just catch the ball, Mark, and drop your body.’ That’s what we were trained to do, because if you drop your body, no matter what it looks like, it doesn’t hurt. If you come down and plant your feet, that’s when it hurts, so I caught the ball and dropped my legs.”

But not the pass. Nineteen seconds remained when the ball was placed on the Tiger-Cats’ 36-yard line.

“We went back in the huddle and it was, ‘Good job, good job,’ ” Guy said. “Then (Austin) said, ‘Run a 10-yard out, because Dave wants to kick from the left hash,’ so I did a 10-yard out and caught the ball and stepped out of bounds.

“The rest is history. Dave kicked it and put it through.”

Guy returned to Saskatchewan in 1990 and caught 29 passes for 328 yards and two TDs in 12 games.

His CFL resume also includes a seven-game stay with the Stampeders, for whom he caught 16 passes for 264 yards and one TD in 1991.

Guy completed his playing career with the Arena Football League’s Detroit Drive in 1992.

He now resides in his birthplace, Olive Branch, Miss.

“I work for a company called Ardagh Group,” Guy said. “We are the Number 2 beverage can maker in the world. We pride ourselves in being able to make 14 million cans in 24 hours. It seems impossible, because there are a lot of moving parts.

“I work on the shipping end of that process. I hope to retire in two years, but we’ll see what happens. If I stop buying stuff, I’ll be able to retire in two years and then cruise it on out.”

The visit to Regina was Guy’s first since 2015, when he returned to Saskatchewan to celebrate McCray’s induction into the Plaza of Honour.

The recent trip allowed Guy to catch up with his godson, spend time with some long-time friends (Bill and Susan Babey of Regina), and mingle with Roughriders fans — many of whom enjoyed the opportunity to reminisce with a Grey Cup hero.

“The Riders in ’89 were something very special,” Guy said, “and I’m very pleased to have been a part of it.”