More than 40 years after coaching the Alouettes to a Grey Cup victory, and at the age of 95, Marv Levy is finally being inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Many would say the recognition is long overdue, but Levy never grew impatient and was grateful when notified recently by Wally Buono, the former head coach and general manager of the B.C. Lions — and one of Levy’s many former players.
“It’s overwhelming,” Levy said from his Chicago home. “I’m blushing, honoured and elated. I could look up a dictionary and come up with some other very appropriate words, too.
“It certainly is meaningful,” he added. “I’m tremendously honoured, just grateful for the recognition that’s coming.”
Levy is one of seven — five players and two builders — that are part of the 2021 class, it was announced on Tuesday. He’s joined by receiver Nik Lewis, who completed his 14-season career with the Als between 2015-17. Also being inducted are defensive-linemen Will Johnson and Mike Walker; defensive-backs Orlondo Steinauer (now the head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats) and Don Wilson, along with former CFL commissioner Doug Mitchell.
“I coached for 47 years and, although only five of them were with the Montreal Alouettes, they remain so prominent in my fond memories,” Levy said.
He arrived in Montreal in 1973, fresh from the Washington Redskins, where he coached special teams under George Allen. The Redskins made the 1972 Super Bowl, losing to Miami.
The Als won Grey Cups in 1974 and ’77 under Levy, losing by a point to Edmonton in ’75 when Don Sweet missed a short, late-game field goal. Levy, named coach of the year in ’74, departed with an overall regular-season record of 43-31-4. His teams won seven of 10 playoff games.
He returned to the NFL in ’78 as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. He remained there nearly five seasons before beginning a 12-year run in Buffalo, taking the Bills to four successive Super Bowls — all defeats. He also spent some time as the Bills’ GM.
Levy will now be one of only three people, along with Bud Grant and Warren Moon, enshrined in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, along with the Canadian Hall.
A history major in college, Levy was seeking to become a head coach when he was offered the Montreal job by former GM J.I. Albrecht. He had learned about the history of Canada in college, along with its relationship to the U.S., and soon become “entranced” by the city.
“I loved being there, well beyond the football field,” said Levy, instrumental in getting blocking permitted on punt returns in the CFL. “It wasn’t just an enjoyable occasion, it was a tremendous educational experience as well.
“The head coaching position was intriguing. There was appeal about the city. It was a move that wasn’t difficult. And I never regretted it for a moment.”
Levy and the others will be inducted during Grey Cup week, scheduled for November in Hamilton. The 2020 class, whose induction was postponed when the CFL cancelled the season because of COVID-19, will have a ceremony scheduled for Aug. 6 in Hamilton.
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