Anyone who thinks of football players as simply being dumb jocks surely never met Mike Eben. If they did, they would have come back impressed as much by his vocabulary as by his exceptional pass-receiving skills.
While playing for the Argonauts as one of their leading pass catchers in the late '60's and early '70's, Eben also found the time to earn his doctorate in German literature from the University of Toronto. With the degree, he taught at York University from 1976-85, and is now a housemaster and member of the modern languages department at one of the country's leading high schools, Upper Canada College. Not bad for a guy who was part of a receiving corps that, along with Bobby Taylor and Mel Profit, looked more like the members of Led Zeppelin than Rhodes scholars.
"(General Manager) John Barrow got a little upset about the length of our hair, but he couldn't do anything about it," said Eben. "We had quite a gallery of characters at the time." Politically and culturally, it was a flamboyant era, and the Argos did their part to contribute.
"We were the big focus (in the city); we had lively players and a lively coach in Leo Cahill," said Eben, who played for some good Argo teams, but never won the big one. "Winning the Eastern final to get to the Grey Cup (in 1971) was memorable, as were a few long touchdown runs of mine."
A two-time Eastern all-star, Eben led the team in receiving from 1974-76, the highlight coming in 1975 when he finished second to Ottawa legend Tony Gabriel with 63 catches for 729 yards. His performance that year was even more remarkable in that the next closest Argo, Doyle Orange, had only 22 receptions for 219 yards.
Among other notable achievements in his football career, Eben was named the first-ever Hec Crighton Trophy winner in Canadian University football, and in 1965 led the U of T Blues to the inaugural Vanier Cup championship.
Staying with university football, Eben's son Christopher is currently following in his father's footsteps, playing inside receiver with the Guelph Gryphons. In a nice little twist, the junior Eben is snagging passes from Gryphons quarterback Wally Gabler Jr., whose father and the senior Eben formed a similar combination with the Argos back in 1972. Chris is also working for the summer with the Toronto Blue Jays, sister franchise to the Argos.
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