Back in 2010, Diane Clemons predicted that Argos receiver Chad Owens would break the CFL record her husband Michael set in 1997 for most all-purpose yards in a single season.
And when that happened, he would be the first one there to congratulate him.
On Thursday night, both of her predictions rang true.
With a 29-yard kick return halfway through the second quarter of Thursday’s game against the Tiger-Cats, Owens leapfrogged Pinball Clemons in the record books.
After adding 11 more yards to his total, via a reception that was initially ruled a touchdown but later overturned, the game stopped and Owens was presented with a commemorative plaque at centre field while Clemons stood next to him.
“It just goes to show Pinball’s character,” Owens said after the game while Clemons passed a jersey around the Argos dressing room for his teammates to sign.
“Here’s someone who’s on the verge of breaking his record and he’s the first guy there to congratulate him.”
For the CFL Hall of Famer, being able to share that special moment with the player he’d been mentoring for the past two years was significant.
Caught up in the excitement of the record-breaking play during the game, Clemons grabbed Owens on the sidelines and, hugging him, dragged him back onto the field for the ceremony.
And once the plaque was presented and congratulatory words shared, the two walked off the turf together, their arms around each other as a touching symbol of the Argos past, present and future connected as one.
All the while, the energetic Clemons could hardly contain himself.
“When I had him in my arms, I had the impulse to just start running with him but then I said, ‘no, this moment is not mine,’ so I had to let him go, I had to let him see his family because you can be taken by the whole thing,” Clemons said following Toronto’s 43-40 win over Hamilton.
“It was such a great honour [to be there], but in the end, I had to remember that this is his time and his space so even though I wanted to be there, even though I just wanted to run around and be crazy, I wanted to respect his space.”
Owens officially ended the regular season with 3,863 all-purpose yards, surpassing Clemons’ mark by 23.
But despite losing the record he’d held for the past 15 seasons, the 47-year-old couldn’t be happier.
“We gained what is — I don’t want to put pressure on him, but — an icon,” Clemons said. “These are important pillars in Argos history and I watch the way that he works, his off-field program, his commitment, how tough he is, and … that’s what I admire.
“I didn’t lose a record; I gained a role model.”
For Owens, the feeling is mutual.
Just a few short years ago, the 30-year-old believed his football career was over.
Cut from the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008, Owens played for Colorado in the Arena Football League, and moved onto the Montreal Alouettes’ practice squad before being acquired by the Argonauts in 2010.
But things began to change for Owens once he was firmly planted in Toronto, and the Hawaiian believes Clemons had a lot to do with that.
“He’s been my biggest supporter from Day 1,” the receiver said. “He’s got so much passion for this game and for this organization and I’m just trying to be like him.”
This season, he was better.
And according to Clemons, it was just a matter of time before the Flyin’ Hawaiian took his crown.
“There was never a doubt in my mind, and I think he can do more,” Clemons said as his bright, signature smile spread across his face. “I think there’s more in him and I expect that he’ll get 4000 next year.”
Though Owens and the Argonauts must now shift their attention to the Edmonton Eskimos, who they’ll face in the playoffs next Sunday, the new record holder admits that the hunt for more yards isn’t far from his mind.
“We still have this season to finish,” Owens said. “We’re focused on the Grey Cup now, but when that’s done, I can rest up and start gearing up for 4000 next season.
“I expected to get there this year, but everything happens for a reason and that just means that I’ll go into the offseason with a lot of motivation.”