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Don Hansen's Football Gazette Blog of information, comments, notes, and tidebits on Small College Football. NCAA 1-AA & Mid Major, Division II & Mid Major, Division III, NAIA, and NCCAA

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Montana Sculptor Makes Canadian Football Hall of Fame

Montreal (Quebec) Canada - 5th June 2006- There seems to be this relationship Wally Buono has with The Great State of Montana and it looks like it's going to last a lifetime. Buono, who is the second winningest coach in the history of the Canadian Football League, began rebuilding the CFL's BC Lions Football Club back in 2002 by adding the University of Montana's, Bob O'Billovich as an operational cornerstone. Bob was an outstanding athlete at the University of Montana and was the only varsity athlete to earn three varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball, serving as a captain in all three sports.

From there, Buono summoned the help of a former quarterback who starred for C.M. Russell and the University of Montana, Dave Dickenson. Dickenson who had quarterbacked Buono's previous team, the Calgary Stampeders, had begun his NFL career. The offer to work again with Wally Buono was intriguing and, in a short period of time, a contract was assembled and Dave was back in the saddle as Wally's field general.

This year, Tyler Emmert joins the B.C. Lions after one of the most prolific careers in U.S. college football history at Montana's Carroll College which resulted in four consecutive NAIA national championships and a record-setting 13,979 yards of total offense for the Montana native. Buono, who is known for developing great quarterbacks with the likes of Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia, has very high expectations for Emmert. Emmert said he's "honoured" to be alongside Dickenson, a legend back home in Montana because he quarterbacked the University of Montana Grizzlies to 1995's NCAA division I-AA championship.

The Montana connection doesn't stop there for Wally Buono although it does take a sharp turn in the road somewhere along Route 87 at Stanford, Montana. It is in Stanford, at the studio of bronze sculptor Steve Lillegard, that Wally Buono, the former CFL Montreal Alouette Linebacker, will be cast into a national trophy. The trophy, which is the centerpiece of the Wally Buono Award for Canadian Junior Football Players across the country, will be left up to Steve Lillegard and his creativity. Lillegard's creation will be housed in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ontario. Each year, a new trophy will be given to Canada's top junior football player. Junior football is comprised of two national leagues, who's players are the ages 18 through 22. The beginnings of the two leagues can be traced back to the early 1900's.

"Born in 1955, Steven E. Lillegard was raised on a ranch and in the small towns of Moccasin and Stanford in central Montana. His artistic ability was noticed and encouraged early by his mother, Elisabeth Lillegard, an artist trained in Boston. During family trips to New England she took him to see works of masters in museums in Boston, Washington D.C. and New York City. His formal training started at Stanford High School where Patricia Hansen assembled an excellent art department. He continued his education at Montana State University where he majored in Fine Art. He won awards in illustration and cartooning while working as the artist for the university newspaper. Lillegard transferred to a graphic arts college and worked as a graphic artist before turning his attention to sculpture. He returned to Stanford in 1981 and began researching the process of casting bronze and built his foundry. Since then his sculptures have won numerous awards including "Best of Show" and "Peoples Choice." They have been featured in museums and can be found in collections worldwide." [Source as quoted: Steve Lillegard Bio]

As the story goes, Steve Lillegard was not even on the list of potential sculptors that were being interviewed for the project. The search had been focused on Canadian artists exclusively. It wasn't until former Montanan, Christina Saint-Marche, a director for The Saint Bernard Pass Charitable Foundation, passed by Lillegard's sign "on about eight separate occasions" that she decided to stop and speak to him. "I'd usually make the trip down Route 87 later in the day after Steve had closed his studio. One day, I decided to stop at studio as a result of 16 months of frustration in finding just the right person to design this bronze casting" stated Saint-Marche, the head of a fashion design house that bares her name in London, England. Christina , who raised in Billings, Montana, now resides in London, England and Calgary, Alberta. Much to her surprise, there in front of her, was the artist she had hoped for, sitting in this small town of less than 500 people, in the rural part of Montana. "Steve had no idea who I was or what I was looking for but he spent about two hours showing me his work and telling me about his life. The detail of his work was incredible and I knew, at that moment, we had found our man." However, the difficult task was not yet complete.

There was a Canadian committee which needed to be convinced that it would be best to allow this American artist, from a small town in Montana, to design a bronze statue that would be housed in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. A Hall of Fame where all of the busts of the inductees and other awards are sculpted by recognized Canadian artists. Then there was Wally and Sande Buono. Wally, who is a humble man of modest beginnings, didn't want to bring too much attention to himself with an award that was reflective of his days as a player. Over a short period of time, the committee was convinced that Steve was their man. "I made a case based on the 'Wally Buono-Montana connection' and my own life in Montana. In my business, I get to travel the world and meet many people. The most committed people you will ever find. anywhere in the world, live in Montana. It can be seen on the athletic fields, on the farms and just about anywhere you look in this state" stated Christina Saint-Marche. Her speech to the committee was passionate as she asked for enough votes to award the contract to the Montana artist. "You can take the girl out of Montana but you can't take Montana out of my Mum. For as long as I can remember, she's been driving her car down there every few months to visit. It's really her home" stated 16 year-old Chance Saint-Marche, Christina and Richard Saint-Marche's Son. With Chance's video presentation of the Lillegard's sculptures, Christina was able to gather the needed votes and then some. Still, there was the convincing of Wally Buono to handle. "Anyone who knows of Wally Buono, the Montreal Alouette player, would know that he was a fierce competitor. Although he was not sizable for the position, Buono played outside linebacker where he was constantly found in a collision with anyone who had the football" said Saint-Marche. "As I look back over the CFL films we have gathered, I am amazed how much ground Wally covered and how hard of a tackler he was."

On May 1st, Steve Lillegard and Wally Buono met for the very first time. There was chemistry in the room and the final agreement was put in place to move forward with the sculpture. Lillegard's idea of "details" came down to not only exact measurements of Wally's playing days but also the type of cleats he wore, his old uniform and helmet and even if he had taped his cleats and hands. A pair of Puma brand football cleats from 1974 were found on E-Bay so that the exact detail could be included within the sculpture. No detail would be overlooked by the artist.

"A commission of this magnitude comes down to chemistry between the artist and his subject. We feel we have that chemistry with Steve which we could not find with other artists. Steve has passion for his work and he happens to know a great deal about Montana football and it's relationship to the CFL. Most of all, Steve Lillegard resembles what Montana is all about. The average guy putting his heart into everything he does. You just don't find that type of commitment too often these days but you can see it just about everywhere you look in Montana" stated Saint-Marche.

And for the very first time, a small piece of Stanford, Montana will be seen in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame for all who visit. The plaque, as mounted below the bronze statue, will read, "Steve Lillegard - Artist, Stanford, Montana." For future Hall of Famers like Bob O'Billovich and Dave Dickenson it is a sense of Montana pride. For Tyler Emmert, it is a message that a small piece of home can be found in Canadian football's most important building.

For Additional Information:
Richard Saint Marche
Signature Entertainment
1000 de la Gauchetiere West
Suite 2400
Montreal, Quebec H3B 4W5
Tel: 514.448.2173


  • At 3:08 PM, Blogger Chance said…

    Edmonton's Jones set to take on Buono

    (Vancouver, BC: July 3rd, 2007) Edmonton Wildcat Tristan Jones is about to make his dream of playing professional football take a step closer to reality. As the son of former Edmonton Eskimo great Milson Jones, Tristan along with his younger brother Devon, have created a stir on the national junior football circuit. Even though Tristan has one more year of junior eligibility left, he still is focused on achieving his life long dream of playing professional football. On Friday Evening, September 14th, Tristan Jones will be honored at the Canadian Football Hall of Fame Induction Dinner as the 2007 Wally Buono Award Winner for Canada's Most Outstanding Junior Player. "It's exciting to win this award and it hasn't really sunk in as of yet. Wally Buono is a legend and to even be attached to this award is hard to comprehend at this moment. There are a lot of people I have to thank for helping me get to where I am today. I have to start with my family especially my brother for pushing me to become better every single day. Both on and off the field, he always has my back. I couldn't do it without him" stated Tristan Jones.
    The new WBA Bronze trophy will be unveiled and presented to Jones at the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ontario. Jones will be seated at the head table with former CFL greats Greg Battle, Darren Flutie, Rocco Romano and Pierre Vercheval. Along with coaching legend, Dave "Tuffy" Knight, the CFL players will be honored as the 2007 Canadian Football Hall of Fame Inductees.
    Jones' selection comes as no surprise to many within the junior football community as he has broken a string of junior football records this past year. "I was fortunate enough to see Tristan in person on several occasions and he is a remarkable runningback. I even went as far as to run his father's game film side by side with his and the comparison was more than I expected. Both Tristan and Devon have many of Milson's attributes and skills" stated Christina Saint Marche who submitted Tristan to Wally Buono as a candidate for the WBA. "The difference between Milson and his sons is that the boys have become students of the game. Tristan has mastered the fundamentals of his position. He has great peripheral vision as he hits the hole. He is not afraid to make adjustments when the opening is not there. He has great instincts as a runner." commented Saint Marche.
    The Wally Buono award is a national award which will be housed in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum in a soon to be built exhibit for junior football. The new bronze trophy which is replacing the 64 pound hammered glass trophy is the only award that takes into consideration all junior players on a national basis. The Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum will be the caretakers of the new bronze trophy in perpetuity. The award was established in 2003 by The Saint Bernard Pass Charitable Foundation for the purpose of recognizing such a player on a national basis. It is in it's fifth year of presentation.

    Recipients of the Wally Buono Award must prove their athletic and leadership ability on the field as well as a high level of leadership within their community. Previous recipients have included 2003 winner, Al Giacalone of Calgary, Alberta. In 2004, Chris Ciezki of Edmonton, Alberta was awarded the Wally Buono Award. In 2005, the award went to Jeff Halvorson of the Okanagan Sun Junior Football Club as the third winner of the Wally Buono Award. Known as the fastest man in junior football, Jeff died suddenly on the practice field on the first of September 2004, just before the end of a practice session. Halvorson was well on his way to breaking several national junior football rushing records himself at that time. Quarterback Nate Friesen was the 2006 winner and he is a member of the Manitoba Bisons.

    Wally Buono, who presides over the award that bares his name, enters his fifth season as the Lions general manager and head coach. Over the past four seasons, Buono has led the Lions to four consecutive playoff appearances and three consecutive first-place regular season finishes as well as a Grey Cup Championship in 2006. Over a 17-year coaching career, Buono has led his clubs to ten division titles and four Grey Cup championships. Highly-respected among coaching peers, he has amassed a regular season record of 202-102-2, putting him second only to Don Matthews in all-time CFL wins. His consistency and success have been recognized with the CFL's Coach of the Year award in 2006, 1992 and 1993.

    Born in Potenza, Italy, in 1950, Wally moved to Canada in 1953 with his family, later playing minor football in Montreal. He attended Idaho State University and was a linebacker for the Bengals. Wally returned to Canada and played 10 seasons with the Montreal Alouettes as a linebacker, appearing in 152 games. Shortly after his retirement, Wally tried his hand at coaching, landing an assistant position with the Montreal organization in 1983. Four years later, Wally found himself in Calgary where he worked under Larry Kuharich until 1990 when Stamps' President Norman Kwong hired him as head coach of the Stamps.

    Aside from being an accomplished CFL coach, Wally is a noted contributor to the community, being recognized for his work with the Paul Harris award in 2001. Wally continues to donate a significant amount of time as an ambassador of the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation and as a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

    After being diagnosed with angina in 2004, Wally has been spokesperson for Making the Connection TM, a program dedicated to the ongoing education of Canadians about the dangers of high cholesterol and its link to heart disease. Wally is also actively involved with Operation Christmas Child, giving presents of clothing and toys to children of impoverished nations.

    Wally and his wife Sande have four children, Amy, Dana, Christie and Michael and one grandchild Jonah.

    Tristan Jones Achievements 2006:
    2006 CJFL All Canadian Runningback
    2006 CJFL All Canadian Offensive Player of the Year
    2006 PFC Offensive Back of the Year
    2006 PFC Most Valuable Player
    2006 PFC Offensive Player of the Year

    For Press Release Information Contact:
    R. Chance Saint-Marche'
    Signature Entertainment Corp
    "The Official Cinematographers of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame"


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