Toronto Argonauts kicking great
Dave Mann dies at age 80
“It would take two days to come out of the sky it seemed,” says John Henry Jackson, a former Toronto Argonaut teammate and friend of Mann’s for more than half a century.
“He was the greatest kicker I’ve ever seen.”
Mann, who soared in many roles with the Double Blue and was voted to the “All-Time Argos” team in 2005, died Tuesday in a Toronto nursing home at 79.
He is being mourned by the likes of comedian and television star Bill Cosby, who became friends with Mann during his days a soul food restaurateur in Toronto in the 1970s.
Cosby has expressed interest in performing a benefit for Mann’s family later this year, says Jackson, who partnered with his former teammate in opening the venerable Underground Railroad restaurant in 1969.
In a 2010 letter nominating Mann for a spot in the CFL Hall of Fame, former CFL and NFL great Joe Kapp praised his football accomplishments.
“Dave Mann has embodied the spirit and heart of the game of football,” Kapp wrote.
“For his 12 extraordinary years of loyal dedication, undeniably outstanding statistics and contributed success on the playing field ... Dave has inspired multitudes of fans, along with earning the respect of coaches, colleagues and teammates alike.”
Nicknamed “Superman” for his aptitude in multiple and diverse roles with the Argos in 1958 and from 1960 to 1970, Mann was a threat with his hands, speed and booming foot.
In 153 games, Mann punted for a total 55,745 yards and his 44.2 yard average was the league’s fifth best all time. A 1966 punt of 102 yards is still second longest in CFL history.
Mann was also on the receiving end of kicks, and holds the record for longest punt return at 131 yards — having run 116 of that after a lateral from teammate Boyd Carter.
Also a kicker and defensive back, he led the league in receiving in 1960 and 1961.
“In 1960 the CFL schedule was 14 games. Dave Mann caught 14 touchdowns and he also caught passes for over 1,400 yards,” Jackson recalls.
“And back in those days there was no downfield blocking for offensive players . . . and Dave was a great broken field runner, he was quick and he was fast and he had sticky fingers for catching the ball.”
Mann — who also played professional baseball with the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks in the early 1950s — came to Toronto after three seasons with the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals.
He came to town when the team was “king of the city”, consistently drawing sell out crowds at old Exhibition Stadium, says former teammate and CFL great Bobby Taylor.
But he came with a little bit of mystery surrounding him, says Taylor, a standout receiver who played with Mann in the late 1960s.
“We didn’t know how old he was,” he says.
“We knew he fought in the Korean was so we always figured he was about 45 by the time he was kicking. But he wouldn’t say.
“We said ‘well if you fought in the Korean War, you were 7’ ”.
Taylor recalls Mann as an incorrigible prankster who fell in love with his adopted city upon arrival.
His daughter Angela Mann says her father was involved in many aspects of the city’s life, including a run for North York counsel in the 1980s.
“He just completely loved Canada from the moment he set foot . . . and he had a fantastic feeling about this city,” his daughter says.
“He was really quite iconic . . . he was always had 50 things on the go at all times.”
Jackson says Mann was multi-talented outside of football, playing drums, performing magic acts and dabbling in acting.
But like many former CFL players, Mann had a pittance of a pension from the league and often had a difficult professional life after football, Jackson says.
Born in Berkeley, Calif., in 1932, Mann played for Oregon State before being drafted into the NFL.