When Davis Sanchez was a rookie trying to crack the Montreal Alouettes lineup, Tony Proudfoot was an assistant coach at the training camp.
Proudfoot, who played defensive back for 12 seasons in the CFL, took Sanchez under his wing.
He gave the North Delta, B.C., native advice, showed him how to play the game. Teacher and pupil formed a bond.
Sanchez, now a corner back with the B.C. Lions, knows he owes a debt to Proudfoot. That’s one reason why he will donate his paycheque from Friday’s game between the Lions and Alouettes to the fund Proudfoot has established to help people suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
Three years ago Proudfoot was diagnosed with the incurable, degenerative illness more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Proudfoot’s health has deteriorated to the point where he can no longer speak. He eats through a feeding tube connected to a hole near his belly button.
“I’m just trying to raise awareness for ALS and the fight that Tony is going through,? Sanchez said Wednesday after the Lions practised before flying to Montreal. “As a rookie . . . he took an interest in me.
“He helped me a lot through the years. He not only was a coach and a supporter of me, he also became a friend.?
Last year, when he played for the Alouettes, Sanchez donated $200 for every interception he had plus $100 for every Montreal win. He made two interceptions and the Als won 17 games to become Grey Cup champions.
Sanchez’s game cheque will be around $5,000.
“The money is a small part of it,? he said. “More important is awareness, getting people knowing about (ALS) so they can start to work on it and help find a cure.?
Like a lot of people Sanchez didn’t know much about ALS. He did some research after Proudfoot was diagnosed and was frightened by what he learned.
“There are 3,000 Canadians living with it and 80 per cent of them die within two to five years,? he said. “They don’t know the cause or the cure.
The Tony Proudfoot Fund has raised $450,000 for the ALS Society of Quebec and three research projects.
“He’s doing a lot,? said Sanchez. “It’s an inspiration to keep fighting through this.
“He’s not laying down and saying `too bad for me.’ He’s saying ’while I’m alive, I’m going to try and help the next person.’ He knows what he’s doing, raising money is not necessarily going to help him. He thinks it might help others. That just shows the character of the man.?
Players on both teams are also impressed with Sanchez’s character.
“It doesn’t surprise me he would do that,? said B.C. slotback Paris Jackson. “He’s very fortunate to be in this position so he believes that money is nothing big.
“Somebody else can deserve it better than him. I give my hat off to him for that.?
Montreal defensive end Anwar Stewart called Sanchez’s donation awesome.
“He has a good heart,? said Stewart. “That will go to research and help to cure this disease because this disease is unbelievable.
“It’s a shame that it happened to a great guy like (Proudfoot). We support him 100 per cent and do what ever we can to help him raise money.?
Montreal leads the East Division with a 6-2 record but will play without all-star quarterback Anthony Calvillo who is out with a bruised sternum. Former Florida quarterback Chris Leak will start for Montreal.
B.C. has lost seven consecutive games and is last in the West with a 1-7 record. Montreal beat the Lions 16-12 earlier this season in Vancouver.
Sanchez said losing Calvillo will be a blow to the Als.
“It makes a huge difference,? he said. “He’s one of the best quarterbacks in this league and one of the best all time.
“To have a young quarterback in there might be a chance for some plays. At this point in time we need to make some plays.?
At 36, Sanchez is healthy and has a future ahead of him. Proudfoot, 60, hopes to see Christmas.
“Any of us see a little of ourselves in Tony,? said Sanchez. “He’s a Canadian defensive back that played a long time in the CFL.
“He was an active, healthy young guy, just like all of us are at this time. You can see a little of yourself in him, which makes it even more difficult.?