Tony Champion

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Tony Champion
No. 87, 1
Date of birth (1963-03-19) March 19, 1963 (age 52)
Place of birth Humboldt, Tennessee
Career information
Status Retired
CFL status International
Position(s) WR
College Tennessee Martin
High school Humboldt
Career history
As player
1985-1992 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Career highlights and awards
CFL All-Star 1989
CFL East All-Star 1989

Tony Champion (born March 19, 1963 in Humboldt, Tennessee) is a former American football and Canadian Football League player.

Early sports career[edit]

A multi-sport star, Champion lived up to his name as a football standout at the high school, college and pro level. A 1981 Humboldt grad, he was an all-district player on the Vikings' 1979 undefeated, 13-0 Class AA state champion football team. As a senior he quarterbacked Humboldt to a 10-1 season and was selected All-West Tenn., 2nd Team All-State and Humboldt Player of the Year. In basketball Champion earned All-District and All-Region as Humboldt finished state runner-up. In track he placed 4th in state in the 330 yd. low hurdles as a junior and qualified for the state as a senior, but elected to attend graduation instead of competing at the state meet.

Football career[edit]

Playing football at the University of Tennessee at Martin (1981–84), Champion was All-Gulf South Conference, had 84 career points and tied a school record with a 100-yard kickoff return. As a junior he surpassed 1,000 receiving yards and set school records for receptions in a season (39) and most yards single game (181 yards on 3 catches). He was a pre-season All-American before suffering knee injury as a senior.

Champion signed as free agent with the Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers, and Green Bay Packers in the National Football League, but in each case was cut from the team.

He was a two time all-star (1986 and 1989) in the Canadian Football League, playing for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for eight seasons from 1985 to 1992. He had 340 career receptions for 5,498 yards and 37 TD's. In 1989 Champion was runner-up for the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award, Hamilton's Most Valuable Player, winner of the Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy trophy, and set a team season record for touchdowns with 15 on the year.

Champion is remembered for his last minute touchdown catch in the 1989 Grey Cup game. With Hamilton trailing in the final minutes, Champion caught a 13 yard Mike Kerrigan pass deep in the end zone with 44 seconds remaining, tying the game at 40-40. Fully extended, he rolled over in mid-air to grab the ball in both hands and fell flat out on the ground, without dropping the ball. Champion was playing with broken ribs.

He won the 74th Grey Cup with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1986.

Professional football record[edit]

Year Team Catches Yards Average Long TDs
1985 Ham 13 203 15.6 67 1
1986 Ham 74 1216 16.4 75 6
1987 Ham 53 851 16.1 75 6
1988 Ham 16 270 16.9 42 1
1989 Ham 95 1656 17.4 83 15
1990 Ham 37 581 15.7 75 5
1991 Ham 45 545 12.1 26 2
1992 Ham 7 176 25.1 75 1

After football[edit]

Champion was somewhat bitter when he left the CFL in 1992. This was evidenced as early as the 1989 Grey Cup game, where in a post game interview he proclaimed: "You've seen the last of Tony Champion." While not correct, this was a manifestation of his belief that he was not fully appreciated or compensated.[1]