The kid kicked him in the shin. The man put him in a garbage can. They were friends forever.

Photo: Anthony Moretti 27Nov2016

To Canadian Football league fans, he was The Don.

Don Matthews was his name.

He passed away earlier this week at age 77, remembered around the league as one of its best coaches who had a fiery personality.

But one Canadian sports journalist remembers that as a kid he accidentally kicked the legendary Matthews in the shin. What followed formed a friendship that lasted decades.

As Austin Davis of the Regina Leader-Post writes,

I can’t recall if he told me to watch where I was going, which he would have been right to do. But our first interaction didn’t go so well.

I kicked Don Matthews in the shin. He placed me in a large garbage can.

We were instant buddies.

A few years go by. Matthews goes from one team to another to another, and Davis grows up to become a sports journalist, the same job his father had.

It wasn’t until I was older when I realized how lucky I was to see a gentler side of Don Matthews.

Even as a kid, I knew of The Don’s reputation for battling members of the media. That was difficult to reconcile with the considerate man who took me under his wing and offered rare opportunities. They are memories I treasure.

Don called after my mom got sick and I called him when he was sick.

Yes, he was tough, but he was more than tough.

For all his football accomplishments, it’s his spirit I still admire most.

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