Angelo Mosca, CFL Hall of Famer, to have No. 68 retired by Ticats
D-lineman appeared in record-tying 9 Grey Cups
He epitomized toughness and tenacity during his playing days with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but Angelo Mosca wants the retirement of his No. 68 to shed light on who he is now.
The former defensive lineman was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease shortly after his 78th birthday in February. On Thursday night, the native of Waltham, Mass., will be only the second player in club history to have his jersey retired, joining quarterback and good friend Bernie Faloney, whose No. 10 was retired in 1999.
"The only thing that comes to my mind is I'm happy I've made awareness of what's wrong with me," Mosca told reporters Tuesday.
The six-foot-four, 315-pound Mosca still strikes an imposing figure despite needing a cane to get around. The former Notre Dame star continues to possess a sharp sense of humour but seemed a bit distant at times Tuesday.
"I don't know exactly where I'm at with it and you know something? It doesn't really matter because I hope people just acknowledge that when they hear me stuttering sometimes, it gets to be tough," he said.
He tires quickly now. His expected 10 minutes with the media was cut in half after he became emotional.
But the Hall of Famer quickly regained his rapier-like wit.
"Maybe next time I come around I will be playing offence," he said with a chuckle.
Mosca was a defensive terror during his heyday. A five-time all-star, he appeared in a record-tying nine Grey Cup games, winning five.
Left game on high note
He played for Hamilton in 1958-59, then from 1963 until 1972, retiring after the Ticats' 13-10 Grey Cup victory over Saskatchewan at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
Mosca also played for Ottawa and Montreal during his CFL career and became a popular pro wrestler after football. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
During the Mosca era, Hamilton always featured a rugged defence. This year's team also has a staunch defensive unit that's helped put the Ticats (6-2) in a tie with arch-rival Toronto atop the East Division.
"I've heard the word defence seems to be the big word," Mosca said of this year's team. "That's what we did in years gone by …we put a lot of guys to sleep.
"They are [too] and it's really nice to see."
Mosca also gushed about Zach Collaros, the Ticats second-year quarterback.
"I like the quarterback," he said. "The quarterback is a fine young man, he's got things put together pretty good.
"He's got a good arm, a long arm. He can get that ball through any place. If not, they can give it to [punt-return star Brandon] Banks."
Mosca is best remembered for a controversial hit on B.C. Lions running back Willie Fleming in the 1963 Grey Cup that proved to be a pivotal play in Hamilton's 21-10 win at Empire Stadium.
The animosity between Mosca and former B.C. quarterback Joe Kapp was on display during Grey Cup week in Vancouver in 2011 when the two came to blows during a CFL Alumni Association luncheon.
Mosca always attracts a crowd when he attends Ticats games.
"It's an unbelievable honour because this franchise doesn't do that," Ticats head coach/GM Kent Austin said of Mosca's jersey retirement. "I just found out Bernie was the best man at his wedding.
"That's a pretty neat story that they had that kind of friendship … a great honour, obviously he's very deserving. He's one of the greatest, if not the greatest player to play here."
Ticats centre Mike Filer had worn No. 68 since joining the club in 2012. On Tuesday, he donned No. 51 and presented Mosca with the No. 68 jersey he wore in Hamilton's 49-20 road win in Edmonton on Friday night.
In return, Mosca gave Filer, a 25-year-old native of nearby Brantford, Ont., a No. 68 jersey with Mosca's name on the back.
"People ask me if I picked it but I was given that number and remember first walking into old Ivor Wynne Stadium and looking and I said, 'I don't know if I should be wearing this number, really,' " Filer said. "By no means did I try to fill those shoes because they're such big shoes to fill.
"Growing up in Brantford, you hear all the stories about Ang and what he's done in the community, for the community and organization. He'll forever be a legend in the city and for the organization. He deserves it, it's fantastic."
Mosca will also be recognized at a function Wednesday night and again broke down when asked about it.
"I just hope they understand I'm not here to be a beauty queen," he said. "I'm here to say what happened to me and unfortunately it's taken away some of my time but that's OK."