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March 16, 2017

Junior achiever

Junir Thurman with the Calgary Stampeders in 1992 (Photo by John Bradley)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Stampeders’ 1992 Grey Cup championship squad.

In the coming months, we’ll be taking a look back at the squad that snapped the Stamps’ 21-year title drought and the cast of characters responsible for the conquest.

This time, we reminisce with all-star defensive back Ulyses (Junior) Thurman.

Junior Thurman
No:
2
Position:
Defensive back
College:
USC
In 1992:
27 years old, 4th season with Stamps
Regular season:
Played 17 games and recorded 49 tackles, four special-teams tackles, 19 knockdowns
Post-season:
Played in both the West final and the Grey Cup and recorded one tackle, one fumble recovery and two pass knockdowns

The 1992 Stampeders, says Junior Thurman, were a team of destiny.

“From the first day of training camp,” recalls the all-star defensive back, “we were very confident that it was going to be our year and that we were going to win the Grey Cup.”

Junior-Thurman-Damon-Allen

Stamps DB Junior Thurman takes down Ottawa QB Damon Allen

The conviction came in part from the supply of talent that crammed every crook and cranny of the home locker room at McMahon, but also from the knowledge the Stamps had let one get away the year before.

“We should have won the 1991 Grey Cup,” says Thurman matter-of-factly. “On defence, we gave up seven first downs and 174 yards of total offence to Toronto. If we don’t turn the ball over (Calgary coughed up the ball five times against the Argos), we win the Grey Cup.”

Thurman says the Stamps were determined to make amends.

“We knew we were going to get the job done,” he says.

Doug Flutie arrived in Calgary to take over the controls of the offence, with spectacular results, which makes it easy to forget the Stamps defence was stellar in its own right, allowing a league low 430 points during a high-scoring era.

“We had a great defence,” raves Thurman. “We had so many all-stars.”

Defensive lineman Will Johnson, linebackers Matt Finlay and Alondra Johnson and defensive backs Thurman and Darryl Hall all earned West all-star recognition in 1992 and Karl Anthony (five interceptions), Stu Laird, Tim Cofield and Srecko Zizakovic (six sacks apiece) were also big contributors.

“So many great leaders on that defence,” says Thurman. “I think Will Johnson was the best rush end in the league. And Alondra was the best middle linebacker in the league.”

1992-Stampeders-team-photo-group-grey-cup

1992 Stampeders Grey Cup champion team

All of which added up to that much-anticipated – and expected – Grey Cup title as the Stamps knocked off Winnipeg in the championship game. Thurman remained with the Stamps for two more seasons before wrapping up his career with one year playing for the Birmingham Barracudas, one of the short-lived franchises of the U.S. expansion era.

Thurman returned to his native California after his playing days were done but he still makes regular visits to Calgary.

“I married a Canadian girl, so we try to get up at least once a year,” he says. “It’s always great to get together with all my former teammates when I’m in Calgary – Peewee Smith, Marvin Pope, Srecko Zizakovic, Will Johnson . . . all those guys.”

For a time, Thurman made a living running sports training and football camps for aspiring young players but he’s now scaled down those activities.

“Now I spend a lot of time coaching my own kids’ teams,” he says. “Baseball, basketball, football . . . I’m just trying to teach them the basics.”