June 26th, 2019

Back in the Hat

By Sean Rooney on December 15, 2018.


Connor McGough has taken it easy since returning to Medicine Hat after his second CFL season, optimistic he’s got lots more ahead of him.

Aaron Crawford? After landing late Wednesday night, the six-year veteran’s been going non-stop, is getting married Saturday and wasn’t entirely sure of his future before the Hamilton Tiger-Cats signed him to a new two-year contract last week.

Both Ticats teammates are finding time to give back to their hometown while they’re here, however.

They’ll be front and centre for a charity night this coming Wednesday, 7-9 p.m. at the Crescent Heights High School gym, helping out the food bank while telling stories, answering questions and posing for photos.

Admission will be any donation, be it food or cash, but the more the merrier this time of year. A $2 charge for photos will also help the cause.

“It’s a great idea, hopefully a good turnout and we can raise a lot of money for the food bank,” said McGough. “It’s just cool to be able to come home, use our platform to attract attention to certain causes.”

“It’s a big thing in the community, it’s used a lot,” Crawford said of the food bank. “You don’t realize how much unless you actually go down there and see.

“It’s an honour to be able to do anything that has meaning in the community, to try and give back a little bit.”

While at different points in their lives β€” Crawford’s 32, McGough only 23 β€” they’ve got plenty of similarities. It’s rare for CFL teammates to come from the same high school, and they often line up alongside each other with Hamilton’s special teams. Crawford’s carved out a niche as one of the league’s best long snappers, while McGough, a defensive lineman, bolted onto the scene after being drafted No. 4 in the 2017 CFL draft.

After Redcliff’s Nathan Coehoorn retired following the 2016 season and Hatter Dan Federkeil a year later, they’re now the only locals playing pro football.

“When you’re done playing football that platform’s gone,” noted McGough. “You’ve got to build relationships, give back, be an influence when you have it.”

“I have a heart for local football players but when I come back, primarily I’m just helping out the Pythons and the Vikings,” added Crawford. “Being able to talk to a broader (audience), that’s awesome.”

Fittingly, it was a presentation like the one coming up that Crawford credits for kick-starting his interest in football. Michael “Pinball” Clemons and Joe Montford visited Medicine Hat when he was young, prompting a young Crawford to own both a Toronto Argonauts T-shirt (where Clemons played) and a Tiger-Cats tank top (for Montford).

McGough remembers Crawford coming back to help from Saint Mary’s University when he was in bantam and high school. That made Crawford feel extra old once the familiar face showed up in the Hamilton dressing room.

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“I didn’t feel truly like a veteran until a kid I’ve known back in my first couple years of pro, he was in high school… now he’s here,” laughed Crawford.

After returning from ACL surgery earlier than expected β€”he incredibly finished playing the 2017 game in which the knee injury happened β€” Crawford was thrilled to sign a new deal that gives him some stability. Hamilton let him use their facilities during his rehabilitation even though he wasn’t signed at the time.

“I was hoping, I feel like I’ve established myself there, hopefully I did enough coming back from injury, showing them I can still do what I do. But at this point in your career, you’re always wondering if coming back from an injury and being older, are they going to look for greener grass? They showed a lot of faith in me.”

McGough still has a year left on his first contract, and will go to the University of Calgary in the new year to continue finishing up his education. His next deal could look a lot different, especially with the collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and its players association set to expire in May.

For now, however, he’s not worried about any of that.

“When the season’s done you need to take a break mentally, spiritually, physically,” said McGough. “At least for myself, when it comes to football you’re really busy… to come home and just relax, be with my family is great.”

And to do something for a good cause? Even better.

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