Former Argonauts offensive lineman Chris Schultz dies at age 61
Burlington, Ont., native spent 3 years in NFL before playing 9 years with Toronto
Friends and fans remembered Chris Schultz as a gentle giant, who became a respected TV and radio analyst after a successful playing career with the Dallas Cowboys and Toronto Argonauts.
Schultz, a native of Burlington, Ont., died Thursday after suffering a heart attack. He was 61.
At six foot eight and 277 pounds during his playing career, Schultz was hard to miss on and off the field. The former offensive tackle was a big man with a grip to match.
"He was a genuine personality. He was himself," said TSN broadcaster Rod Smith, a longtime friend and colleague. "There was no pretence to him.
"He could be gentle with people. He always asked about my family. But at the same time, he was strong, he was imposing. And oh that handshake. It was the most crushing handshake — and I've got big hands — that I've ever experienced in my life.
"I think of him right now and I just think of shaking his hand. You always had to be ready."
In an era when a Canadian in the NFL was something special, Schultz turned heads when he was drafted by America's Team in 1983.
Toronto had selected Schultz in the first round (seventh overall) of the 1982 CFL draft.
Schultz played for Toronto from 1986 to 1994 and was named a CFL all-star twice (1987 and '88) and East all-star three times (1987, '88 and '91). He was named to the Argonauts all-time team in 2007.
"Chris Schultz was made to play football, or football was made for Chris Schultz," Argonauts GM Michael (Pinball) Clemons said in a statement." Either way it was a symbiotic relationship. His passion reverberated on radio, television, coaching kids or walking the dog. He was always willing to talk football.
"I'm disappointed because he had more to give, and my fervent hope is he knew how much he was loved," he added.
Transition to broadcasting
After his playing career, Schultz moved into radio before spending 20 years as an analyst for TSN. He spent the last two seasons as colour commentator on the Argos' radio broadcasts.
Smith recalls interviewing him back for a broadcast position in 1998.
"I remember doing this audition with him and immediately being impressed by not only his knowledge and his passion but just his presence. He was a big man with a big presence," he said in an interview. "And I could tell instantly how good he was going to be on television."
Schultz got the job and became a fixture on TSN's CFL panel.
Schultz started his football career in the Burlington Minor Football Association and played for the Aldershot Lions during high school. While he also played basketball, he looked south of the border for football opportunities, travelling by bus to Michigan State and Syracuse to gauge interest.
He earned a scholarship at the University of Arizona, where he started life as a defensive lineman before switching to the offensive line as a senior. His played for the Wildcats from 1978 to 1982, appearing in the 1979 Fiesta Bowl.
Schultz was inducted into the Burlington Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
"The CFL is filled with countless men and women who make it spectacular, and we lost one of them [Thursday]," said Blue Bombers coach Mike O'Shea.