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August 16, 2019

“Why did I keep running? Guess I was on my way back to Calgary.”

For the one and only time in his half-dozen years modelling red-and-white, Peewee Smith received a helping hand from someone dyed-in-the-wool green-and-gold.

“The security guard by our room was actually the one who opened the door for me,’’ recalls the now 51-year-old Smith, fresh off carding a tidy 75 at the Woodside track in Airdrie. “He saw me coming.

“Door was open so I just kept running. He was being polite, I guess.

“I wanted to high-five him on the way by.

“But he was mad. He wanted no part of that.”

Among the cameo-keepsake moments in Calgary Stampeders lore, the 67-yard touchdown toss from QB Danny Barrett to Peewee Smith late on in the 1991 Western Division final in the Edmonton Eskimos’ cavernous Commonwealth stadium stronghold ranks high.

Saturday at on Legacy Night that unrepeatable piece of gridiron theatre will doubtless be on a lot of minds as Smith and a list of other alumni are recognized for their contributions on Legacy Night at McMahon Stadium.

What made that moment particularly spectacular, as any cursory Stamp fan/historian can enlighten you, is that after slicing the Eskimo secondary right down the gullet, reaching out to snare the pass from QB Danny Barrett and sailing untouched into the end zone for the winning points, Smith kept right on going, straight into the visitors’ inner sanctum.

CBC cameras tracked his every delirious stride.

“The reason I went in the dressing room was because I thought the game was over,’’ laughs Smith, self-admonishingly. “So I felt like an idiot coming back out.

“There’s 45-50 seconds left to go and I’m there, sitting in the locker room by myself. Starting to celebrate, by myself.

“And we still had to kick off.

“Why did I keep running? Guess I was on my way back to Calgary.”

The Stampeders would subsequently tumble at the final hurdle, the 59th Grey Cup game, 36-21 to the Matt Dunigan-Rocket Ismail-propelled Toronto Argos at Winnipeg Stadium.

But given the context, slaying the beast in their own lair, made that moment at Commonwealth a perspective-changer.

Consider that the Stamps hadn’t beaten Edmonton in any sort of meaningful game since 1980, while their last playoff W up north could be traced back a further nine years.

Adding to the redemptive storyline, Smith had been guilty of a key dropped pass in the West final loss to those same Eskimos the year prior, at McMahon Stadium.

“That game, winning, changed the dynamic of the Stampeders, I’ll tell you that,’’ says Smith. “Got the ol’ mojo going.

“If we’d won a few more Grey Cups – and the team was there to do it, more than capable – we’d be talking dynasty. Like Edmonton with (Warren) Moon and all those guys.

“But coulda, shoulda, right?

“People always ask about that play. But the one that set it up is the one before. Third-and-10 and Danny scrambled to get the first down.

“That, to me, was the key play.”

Naturally, living and working locally, he keeps close tabs on the current edition of his old team. Especially the pass-catchers.

“I like all the Stampeder receivers. I like that Begelton kid. I think he’s going to be a great one. Another guy who can be real special is the one who hurt his knee last year, No. 88 (Kamar Jorden).

“The players today, they respect us old guys – listen to me, calling myself an old guy – and that’s nice.

“We set the table, set the pace, y’know. They’re the ones keeping the tradition alive.”

Smith keeps in touch with his past, his pals. That, after all, is what legacy is all about.

“I just finished golfing with Kenton Leonard, my best friend. Me and Big Daddy (Marvin) Pope are tight, too. Will Johnson. Jackie Kellogg. We all still hang out.

“I have good friends that played for the Eskimos, too. We talk every week. Gizmo. Willie Pless.

“We still go at it, talking trash to each other. But not as bad as before.”

Over those six seasons down Crowchild Tr. North, McMahon became a sort of Peewee’s Playhouse. In terms of popularity, there are few to rival the former NCAA champion at the U of Miami who actually did come Straight Outta Compton.

Admit it, there’s something innately fun, endearing, about a guy christened Demetrious who answers to Peewee.

“Why me?’’ he repeats. “I guess I’m just that kinda guy who’s fun to be around. I got that – what do the kids call it? – swag. That’s it. Swag. I got swag.

“Honestly, I really don’t know. I ask myself that same question.”

And, really, even if there was nothing else – not the neon-bulb personality, the lickety-split speed after the catch – that historic snare and extended sprint of Nov 18, 1991 up north – captured forever in the imaginations of a generation – would rank him high on the local to-love list.

“That,’’ says Smith playfully, “was a lo-o-o-o-n-g time ago.

“But I guess some people still remember it.

“Nice to be remembered for something.”