This week’s Sault Legend is Paul Linklater, a Sault Steeler, coach and now referee.
Paul did a lot with the Steelers back in the day and has given so much back to the game of football and the Sault that he deserves our recognition.
“I don’t know what gets a guy into it but once you’re into it, it’s fun. It’s fun teaching a game that you loved to play,” says Linklater.
Linklater played for the Steelers from ’73 to ’80 and was on three conference winning teams with them in 1975, 1976 and 1980 where the crowd “were not as packed as in ’72 but the numbers were there. The crowds were still there.”
Linklater made the NFC Hall of Fame and was a 5-time MVP.
He broke interception records one year and that was the year he had a tryout with the Toronto Argos.
“That’s sort of like a business down there,” he says. He was there for a few days and got offered an $11,000 contract but even in ’75, it wasn’t enough to keep a family going.
Linklated played defensive back and the last three years he was the offensive end. Another Sault Legend Donny Mei taught Linklater everything he knew about punting too, which Linklater would have to from time to time.
He narrowly missed the famous 1972 Sault Steelers because he was still in high school but when he made the team he was still under the direction of Len Monico. “He brought me under his wing. I learned everything from him in the early years.”
“I always looked up to those guys to guide me through,” Linklater said.
“It was great times we had back then.”
In 1980 the team would start to wane as far as the amount of players showing up for the team but they still managed to win the conference again.
“It was a really good team effort,” he says. He named Marty Smith, the quarterback as being the team’s MVP that year as he led them with the help of Linklater and others to the conference championship.
Linklater still sees the guys from the 1980 team around town and they talk about the old days.
In 1995 he started coaching Sault minor football and that’s when he started giving back to the game.
“The main thing for coaching for Sault minor is the fundamentals. Once you get that in place…everyone wants to play quarterback…but, you find the best position for each player.”
He coached alongside Fred Rushon.
He learned what he could from Monico and Dick Joy back in the Steelers days. Dick Joy used to coach basketball at Sir James Dunn High School.
“I got a lot of respect for that man,” he said about Monico.
It didn’t end there as after he retired from coaching in 2001 he began as a referee for the Sabercats, the Steelers, Sault minor football and in each fall, the high school teams.
Linklater, now retired, still sees refereeing as something serious, even with the youth, as it is a way for him to keep active and “as a referee you can still help the kids out.”
And as far as seeing the games Linklater says refereeing “is the best seat in the house.”