The 2018 Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductees have been announced. There’s a great video of who is in and why they are there from the CFL. https://www.cfl.ca/2018/03/21/meet-the-2018-canadian-football-hall-of-fame-class/
Scott Flory, the late Tommy Hugo, Hank Ilesic, Brent Johnson and Barron Miles are in as professional players while Frank Cosentino joins them as a ‘builder’ and Paul Brûlé is being honoured for his amateur playing career. The latter may be slightly unusual if you are only used to seeing how the NFL does things with the pro football HOF, but this is the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, so an amateur player can be voted in.
One player getting in really stood out for me though. As I may have mentioned before, I love special teams. http://www.nflgirluk.com/2017/12/03/getting-a-kick-out-of-special-teams/
So it is perhaps not surprising that I was happy to see a punter, Hank Ilesic, make the Hall. Aside from long snapper or holding for a kicker, punter may just be the least glamorous position on the team. No fans are ever hoping to see the punter come out as it means their O isn’t going anywhere after all. For all that it is a highly skilled art pinning back the other team and giving your D a chance to succeed where the O didn’t. https://www.esquire.com/sports/interviews/a37444/toughest-position-nfl-football-punter-chris-kluwe/
Ilesic’s 20-year CFL career saw him play in 261 regular-season games, 18 playoff games and nine Grey Cup games with four teams. Ilesic was 7-2 in the Grey Cup playing as a member of a record seven Grey Cup winning teams, winning five straight with the Eskimos (1978-82) before capturing another two as a member of the Argonauts (1983, 1991).
An eight-time CFL All-Star, Ilesic led the league in punting average on six occasions, Ilesic’s 64 punts and 2,735 punting yards both rank first in Grey Cup game history. Ilesic is the CFL’s third all-time leading punter in yardage with 91,753 yards. His 8,004 yards in 1986 is the second most for a season in league history. He is eighth all-time in CFL history for regular season games played with 259. His 19 seasons played ranks him tied for fourth all-time. He is also fifth all-time for scoring single points in the regular season with 185, many coming on his notably long kick-offs.
Ilesic was prodigy. He won the national Punt, Pass & Kick competition when he was 14. He was 17 when the Edmonton Eskimos signed him and just 18 when he made the team in his first season as the Esks cut Gerald Kunyk, the CFL’s leading punter two seasons before. His first recorded regular-season CFL punt went 55 yards. By 19 he had won back-to-back CFL and Western Football Conference all-star selections. From those incredible beginnings grew the what we can now call Hall of Fame career.
Take most other positions and imagine a player with that kind of career. You’d have to believe that any player who won a record seven Grey Cups, including all five of the 1978-82 Edmonton Eskimos dynasty and another two in his 11 seasons with the Toronto Argonauts, and played 19 seasons (including one in the NFL) would have a strong case for selection to his sports HOF. Ilesic though retired in 2001. That’s quite a while to wait for someone with his CV.
It may be a position that can offer career longevity for some, but Ilesic is just the second punter to be inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame. Special teamers may be involved in a third of the game, but they don’t get the recognition that offensive and defensive players do, so as an avowed fan of the third element of football there’s little wonder that Ilesic’s name stood out.
Image from Argonauts.ca