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American by Birth Canadian by Choice

Michael “Pinball” Clemons

Pinball was born and raised in Dunedin, Florida by a single mother, who also was looking after their great-great grandmother, who went blind around the time of Pinballs birth. Despite the tough upbringing Pinball remained positive, refereeing to himself as the “ultimate optimist.” Pinball credits his mother for what got him to where he is in life, she set an example for him to work hard and to push through. Pinball started football at the age of 8, and played while attending and graduating from the College of William and Mary. His all-purpose yards compiled to 4,778 and got named a Division 1-AA all-American. In the 1987 NFL Draft Pinball would be selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the eighth round at pick 218. Time with the Chiefs would prove to be short as he played one season returning 19 punts for 162 yards. The next season he was failed to earn a roster spot on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and just when he thought his time playing football was up, Pinball got the call from Toronto.

Pinball would come to Toronto to play for the Argonauts, and on his very first play performing kick returns would fumble the ball. Pinball credited his teammates for providing support after that play. In his time playing for the double blue, Pinball would bring the city three Grey Cups (1991, 1996, 1997), amassing a 25,438 all-purpose yards which is a still a CFL record. His final game in 2000 brought Toronto to a standstill as the city celebrated the career of an all-time great. Upon retiring from the game in 2000, he would coach the Argos for seven seasons winning the Grey Cup in 2004 in an upset over the B.C Lions. As well in 2001 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Ontario. Despite winning the East division in 2007 Clemons stepped away from coaching to spend more time with his family and moved to the role of Vice-Chairman, which he currently holds. Pinball would add two more Grey Cup ring in his role of Vice-Chairman, including the 100th Grey Cup as well as the most recent 2017, both were upsets over the Calgary Stampeders.

Michael “Pinball” Clemons in a blue suit

Outside of the game of football, Pinball has always engaged in charity, supporting local causes and in 2007 founded the Pinball Clemons Foundation. The foundation runs many events from boxing, 5k/10k’s, and a charity gala to raise funds for disadvantaged youth, and quicken academic excellence in youth. The foundation has branched out to helping out abroad dividing the money raised 50/50 for local and global causes, including building schools. Pinball also does public speaking and is well known for his speeches, whether in the locker room or at WE Day or going into rhe Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Pinball continues to have the biggest smile around, as he continues his work with charity and the Argonauts, embracing every fan who speaks to him.

On April 28th of 2015 Pinball and his wife would finally become naturalized Canadian citizen, missing his target date of the 100th Grey Cup celebration in 2012. Pinball loves to use the C.D. Howe quote “American by birth but Canadian by choice” to describe himself as he has embraced living in Canada and has no plans to leave.

-Everett Barilla