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October 19, 2019

“IT’S BEEN A GOOD RIDE”

Over the course of a dozen seasons, through the ups downs, ebbs and flows, joys to last a lifetime and despairs that only lightly linger, it’s safe to say that Brandon Smith has run the gamut.

Contending teams. Excellent teams. Dynastic teams. And, yes, the odd just-okay edition.

“I’ve seen a lot of good teams,’’ Smith reflected of his “But this team … no quit in them.

“We go out and there we fight. We claw. We scratch. However we gotta win.

“We lay our bodies on the line. As you can see, we’ve gotta lot of fallen soldiers, week-in, week-out. It’s a special team to be a part of. I’m glad to have every one of those guys.

“All it’s about is putting a W on the board.”

Once again, the 2019 Calgary Stampeders did just that, a 37-33 pier-6er over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers that once again sees them occupy the summit of the Western Conference with two starts remaining on the regular-season itinerary.

Slotback Reggie Begelton may have snared three Bo Levi Mitchell touchdown passes. Josh Huff gorged himself on 121 yards receiving. Mitchell himself shrugged off a frustrating series of drops to amass 321 yards through the air. The defence held fast when it counted, at the end, clinging resolutely to a four-point lead.

Yet the night, in a very real sense, belonged to the 35-year-old Smith, who has officially announced he’ll be calling it a career whenever exit day may be for these Stampeders.

With dad Michael in attendance from the family home in Oakland, Calif., he was feted by the McMahon Stadium faithful at game’s end, and deservingly so.

“It was sweet. He’s a huge Stampeder fan, CFL fan. He follows it night and day. So for him to come up and witness it is .. I wish my other family could’ve been here but I’m sure they’re at home, watching on TV.

“I know they’re filled with joy and love, as well.

“They come up every year. Not being able to come and see me play is gonna be a piece of them that’s also gone.

“But we have great memories.

“Just because I’m not playing anymore doesn’t mean I’m not part of the city.”

Smith’s decision couldn’t be classified as a stunner, even if the timing caught more than a few people by surprise.

“Smitty came to us a couple weeks ago. He’d always kinda hinted at it, had fun with it,’’ explained head coach Dave Dickenson. “But he made it official to me and Huff.

“We felt it was good to let the fans know. He, to me, is the guy I love to have in the locker room. He just gives it his all every single game.

“A guy every team needs to build on.

“We wanted to do something for him. Obviously we didn’t give him a car or anything like that. He’s gonna be one of those all-time Stamps.

“Been here 12 years, doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. I thought it was nice for the fans to be able to give him a little love.”

Leader. Mentor. Playmaker. Calming influence. Emotional catalyst. Smith has donned all these guises during his stay here since arriving in 2007 from the Arena League San Jose SabreCats.

“It’s been a good ride,’’ he agreed, underplaying as is his custom. “Usually after every season I sit back and assess, see how everything feels and make a decision.

“Coming into this season, I thought about (retirement). Kinda wanted to go out last year after the Grey Cup. But the body felt good, season went well and with the Grey Cup being in Calgary, that’s something I wanted to be a part of.

“That played a lot into returning.

“The city’s been great to me. I’ve been in Calgary my whole career. I have nothing but love for the city. I just wanted to give the fans to see my last game on the field.

“With the battle going on in the West, we’re confident, but there’s still uncertainty. We have to play out the season but just to give the fans a heads-up. I owed it to them, at least.

“Being able to guide your own destiny played a huge part in it. I never wanted to be forced out; to end it on an injury or anything like that.

“Being in the position to set my life up outside football, being able to walk away and be okay with it, on good terms, was important to me.”

Ahead, coming up fast on the horizon, the post-season and an opportunity Nov. 24th to help author an ending to end them all.

“It’d be a great accomplishment,’’ he acknowledged, smiling slightly. “To do that for the city, for my teammates.

“I don’t know if anyone else has done it.

“It’d be a good way to out. God willing, we just go out there and lay it on the line. Keep fighting week-in and week-out.

“When it’s all said and done, I’m gonna give it my all.

“I’m gonna empty the tank.”