Michael "Pinball" Clemons is perhaps the most recognizable name in the Canadian Football League. Now he is hoping the team he helped build will hoist the Grey Cup trophy in Regina this Sunday.
"This is the epicentre of Canadian football. This is the heartbeat of who we are," said a beaming Clemons on Thursday morning.
Decked out in a Toronto Argonauts-coloured dark blue suit, Clemons said a Grey Cup game in Saskatchewan has a special significance.
"There's a different level of love here and that comes together."
A six-time CFL champion, Clemons won three titles as a player, two as an executive and one as a coach.
A seventh win would be his first as general manager.
He said the plan to get the Argos back to the CFL's summit revolved around recruiting players who had been to the championship game before.
In a five-day span in February, Clemons signed free agents and multiple-time CFL all-stars Andrew Harris, Ja'Gared Davis and Brandon Banks.
Counting Sunday's game, the trio will have a combined 15 Grey Cup appearances.
Davis will make his sixth straight appearance. Harris is looking to win four out of four including three in a row. Banks has lost all four of his previous appearances.
Each player said Clemons played a vital role in their recruitment to the Argos.
"He's an amazing guy and definitely someone everyone looks up to as a mentor. I'm completely blown away by how he treats everyone and so happy I got an opportunity to be here and work alongside him," Harris said.
The admiration is mutual.
"My adoration for [Harris] is boundless," Clemons said.
Davis and Banks were plucked from the Argonauts rivals the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the offseason.
"It's an honour. He's a legend. You mention Pinball in the Toronto area and their faces light up," Davis said.
"He's the reason I'm here," Banks said. "Pinball is everything to me. He made the transition from Hamilton to here a lot smoother and we are trying to reward him by giving him a Grey Cup."
For Clemons, the team's appearance in the Grey Cup is right on schedule.
"[In 2019] I told the ownership I think we have a chance to get there in three years."
Clemons said the first year of his plan resulted in finishing first in the division and losing the Eastern Final, despite leading 12-0 at halftime.
He said this past offseason, he talked to the team's owners about bringing in the three big-name free agents to get the team over the hump.
"[Harris] was one of the guys, Ja'Gared Davis was another one of the guys, and Speedy Banks we brought in to help bring that pedigree."
The Argonauts face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Grey Cup, which kicks off Sunday at 5 p.m. CST.