Langley’s Neil McKinlay described his induction into the Simon Fraser University (SFU) athletic hall of fame as a “privilege” and “great honour” at the recent athletic awards ceremony, held at the Molson Canadian Theatre at the Hard Rock Casino in Vancouver.
McKinlay, a D.W. Poppy graduate, started his football career as a player in the Langley Minor Football Association before playing five years of football at SFU before being signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where the linebacker played from 2004 to 2009, then retired before returning to the game to help win a Grey Cup for the B.C. Lions.
In a video statement prepared for the April 6 event, McKinlay – who was unable to attend in person – thanked his teammates.
“Without them and the coaches, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity [to be inducted], so I’m eternally thankful,” McKinlay said.
He also thanked his family “who put up with me for numerous years” and their support through the ups and downs of the game, saying “from good car rides home, to quiet car rides home, we’ve endured a lot.”
McKinlay was named to the SFU hall of fame in 2020, but the actual ceremony had to be postponed because of the pandemic.
During his five years at SFU, McKinlay experienced both American and Canadian college football, as Simon Fraser played three of those years under American rules in the U.S based National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) conference and the last two seasons under Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) rules.
In McKinlay’s final season at SFU in 2004, he was named a CIS first-team all-Canadian and a Canada West first-team all-star.
In that same season, McKinlay also won the president’s trophy as the most outstanding defensive player.
During his senior year, McKinlay was the conference leader in forced fumbles (10), quarterback sacks (eight) and fumble recoveries (seven).
The year before, McKinlay set a CIS record for defensive tackles in a season with 77. He was also named SFU’s most inspirational athlete that year.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers selected McKinlay in the 2004 draft.
As a Blue Bomber, from 2004 to 2009, the Langley native appeared in 105 games for Winnipeg, and was a standout on special teams racking up 92 tackles over six seasons.
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He retired to become a firefighter, but briefly returned to the game in 2011, when he signed with the B.C. Lions.
McKinlay joined the team in late October of that year and helped them win the Grey Cup in November.
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