August 10, 2017

Carl Kidd | From Pine Bluff To Wall of Fame

The legend of Carl Kidd in a BC Lions uniform may have never taken place, if not for his rough play in practice while trying out for the Minnesota Vikings.

Kidd spent two seasons with the Oakland Raiders and bounced around a few more NFL camps before finding himself in purple in the summer of 2000. After a few hard hits and some rough back and forth with their star receiver Randy Moss, the Vikings said “thanks but no thanks” and cut him loose.

“I felt like if they saw me competing hard against Randy then they would notice what I could do. I was trying to make an impression,” said Kidd of his brief experience in Minnesota.

“I kind of roughed him up a little bit. I was trying to win a job. I was the only one who would jump up and go against him. I bet to this day Randy Moss respects me as a man.”

You would think getting in the face of someone who won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and went on to become a six-time Pro Bowl selection would no doubt be a good formula; especially for a player like Kidd who needed to do anything to make case for himself. Simply put, Kidd has never backed down on the gridiron. It’s why he is who he is.

After being handed his walking papers, Kidd was all but convinced his football dream was ending at the age of 27. He soon went back to his home of Pine Bluff, Arkansas and interviewed for a job at the local Mercedes dealership. The man who conducted the interview told Kidd he had the job, but also gave some rather unexpected and intriguing advice.

“He told me he thought I could still play football if I gave Canada a shot,” recalled Kidd.

Like most Arkansawyers, yes that’s what they are called, Kidd had never seen a CFL game, much less entertained the idea of migrating north to play.

“My agent set me up to go to Vancouver and the rest is history,” added the two-time West Division All-Star.

These stories are once again at the top of Kidd’s mind as he prepares for his induction to the BC Lions Wall of Fame, along with teammate Brent Johnson, during halftime of the Leos’ home clash with Calgary on August 18th.

“Along with being a good football player, Carl had tremendous size and speed. Those intangibles don’t come around every day,” said GM/head coach Wally Buono.

“I think one year he played with two broken hands. When my wife broke her wrist I said ‘Sande come on you have to be tough. Carl played with two broken hands,’” added Buono with a laugh.

Although it seems like a no brainer, the punishing linebacker has a confession to make: he felt the way he acted on the field hurt his chances of ever being honoured. One incident came on a rather dark day in franchise history when they were blown out 30-3 in the 2002 Western Semi-Final at Winnipeg. Fans belted the visitors’ bench with debris and one Bombers supporter decided to hop over and fight them face-to-face.

As you might expect, it was an ill-fated move as a he was stomped on more than a few times by a very frustrated Kidd. The fallout from the incident impacted Kidd greatly.

“There was a reporter in Winnipeg that wrote a letter to me over the Christmas break saying if I thought I was going to win any type of post-season award, as long as he had a vote, I would never get one,” recalled Kidd.

“That right there turned me off. From that day forward, I never thought I would get nothing. That guy drove me to try and do better. I thought I was getting a Christmas card. It really made me cry. I am really thankful that I have the chance to go in (to the Wall of Fame) and that BC really appreciates me.”

The dust up in Winnipeg wound up being a blessing in disguise for another reason: Owner David Braley and then-President Bob Ackles decided they needed to bring in a head coach who could change the image of the franchise. That man was none other than Buono. When describing what the CFL Godfather did for him as a player, Kidd didn’t hold back.

“I’m not going to say my franchise was trash, but he cleaned it up,” said Kidd of Buono.

Like many other guys before and after him, Kidd had a clean slate and needed to prove just how valuable he was to the new boss.

“Wally called me out one time and said he thought I couldn’t finish all of my conditioning drills on a Canadian field,” recalled Kidd.

“I blew him out the box. I told him I was going to go out drinking the night before practice and that I would kill it. I bet him $100. The next day I came in and finished. He paid me my money and from that point on he respected me. I think he just saw how I could step up and compete. We treated each other with respect.”

“I don’t remember that, but it would seem accurate,” recalled Buono.

“I knew he was a good player, but one thing I found out about him was he relied a bit too much on other people to help him. We had a discussion one day about him becoming his own man and coming to the practice field ready to go. After that it was never an issue.”

In his seven plus seasons with the club, Kidd helped form the nucleus of one of the most intimidating defences in franchise history. The likes of Kidd, Johnson, Dante Marsh, Javier Glatt and Korey Banks were all remembered for their swagger, combined with the ability to make big plays at the most opportune times.

“Dante and I didn’t see eye to eye at first. We bumped heads, but he turned out to be a great player. Korey Banks was one of those guys who could play and we all just blended in well. There were also guys like Eric Carter and Bo Lewis who really taught me the Canadian game. I owe them a lot.”

Glatt’s goal line stand on Anthony Calvillo in the 2006 Grey Cup victory over Montreal is one that will go down as one of the biggest defensive plays in franchise history.

“I think we had the best defence that was ever assembled in the CFL,” said Kidd of the 2006 Grey Cup winners.

Johnson deserves a lot of credit for his role in helping that squad finish the job after disappointing endings in 2004 and 2005. Kidd couldn’t be happier the two will be enshrined together in a dual ceremony.

“Brent Johnson, in my eyes, was one of the best defensive ends that I ever played with,” claimed Kidd.

“He came from out of nowhere. I am still trying to figure out where he got all of that power. He was quiet at first and once he turned it on, he didn’t turn it off. I still talk about Brent to this day, about his power moves and how he came from Ohio State as a linebacker.”

What’s keeping Kidd busy these days? He is back in Pine Bluff, coaching football and fulfilling his post-playing goal of teaching. Kidd regularly spent his offseason taking university courses and wound up getting his Masters Degree in Education.

“If you met Carl you thought he was kind of a country bumpkin that didn’t have much going for himself, but when you got to talk to him he was a sharp guy that knew what he wanted,” explained Buono.

“He worked hard and I never worried about Carl not being able to put food on the table.”

Kidd understands the importance of spreading the message to youngsters that sports can lead to a ticket to a better and healthier life.

“When I was growing up you either played sports or was in a gang. It used to be a hardworking city until they closed down the factories,” explained Kidd.

“It’s a rough city, but it’s a great city. If you can make it in Pine Bluff you can make it in Vancouver, Canada too.”

Kidd made it all right. And you can bet that when he speaks, his students and players listen.

As far as the Wall of Fame induction goes, even Kidd himself may be at a loss for words when the time comes. Perhaps even Moss and some out of town media members will be smiling when they get the news.

 Matt Baker: