- Fan Zone
By Stampeders.com staff
John Helton may not have been in a class by himself but, as the old saying goes, it sure didn’t take very long to do roll call.
Helton was one of the greatest defensive players in Stampeders and CFL history and he has the credentials to prove it.
The Arizona State alum played 10 seasons with the Red and White (1969-78) and was named a West Division all-star on nine occasions and a CFL all-star seven times during that period.
From 1972 to 1976, Helton was the Stamps’ nominee for the best defensive player award and he won the trophy in both 1972 and 1974.
He earned a couple of more all-star honours with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1979 and 1982 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985, the first year he was eligible.
Helton credited two fellow defensive linemen for helping him when he was a rookie with the Stamps in 1969.
“Don Luzzi and Granny Liggins got it going,” he said. “Everything I learned about defence, I learned from them. Granny Liggins was so quick off the ball. Don Luzzi was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time I was and he helped me tremendously.”
In 1971, the Stamps defence that included Helton, Liggins, Wayne Harris, Dick Suderman and Craig Koinzan pounded Argonauts quarterback Joe Theismann all game long as Calgary edged Toronto 14-11 in the Grey Cup game for the franchise’s first championship in 23 years.
“We beat them in every aspect of the game,” said Helton. “They didn’t move the ball on our defence. Sometimes when you win a Grey Cup, the pressure is off and it’s almost a relief. It wasn’t the joy of winning so much as the relief that we didn’t lose. But it is a great feeling. Your city gets to enjoy the thrill of being a champion. That is the best thing and sharing the moment with your teammates.”
Nicknamed “Biggie,” Helton also made a name for himself off the field as he occasionally took part in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling cards.
An interesting diversion to be sure, but Helton never lost sight of his primary job.
“Football is a wonderful game,” said Helton. “I loved the game. I loved the guys I played with and some I played against. I really respected them. I played for 14 years and I missed two games. I tried to play hard on every down.”