One of the most prominent CFL on TSN figures has passed away. That would be Chris Schultz, who played for the University of Arizona Wildcats from 1979-82 (first as a defensive tackle, then as a left tackle on offense in his senior season, setting him up for a professional career at that position), the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys from 1983-86, and the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts from 1986-94. Schultz then went on to perhaps an even bigger impact as a broadcaster, joining TSN in 1998 and spending more than 20 years covering the CFL and NFL for them, while also playing a key role in the annual Purolator Tackle Hunger campaign in support of local food banks. Schultz also worked as a football analyst for The Fan 590 (now Sportsnet The Fan 590) and TSN 1050, including serving as the color commentator for the latter’s Argonauts’ broadcasts in 2018 and 2019. Schultz passed away Thursday night from a heart attack; he was 61. And the Canadian football world has offered up incredible tributes to him, starting with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie (who played on the Argos’ OL with Schultz in 1987 and 1988):
“We called Chris Schultz the Big Man for so many reasons beyond the obvious. He had a big personality. He could make you think as easily as he could make you laugh. He had a big presence on CFL on TSN, breaking down each game with incredible passion, insight and joy.
“He had a football career so big it included both Canada’s Grey Cup and America’s Team. But most of all, my teammate and friend had a big heart. It was oversized even for his frame.
“It was so clearly on display in his tireless work on behalf of Purolator Tackle Hunger. When he spoke publicly about working at and with food banks, and what it meant to him and to families in need, Chris’ sincerity and empathy moved everyone. Those moments not only made the program stronger. They made everyone who experienced them want to be better, to be more like Chris.
“His passing leaves a giant-sized hole in the CFL Family. Let’s resolve to fill it the way Chris filled his time with us: with passion, positivity and kindness. Let’s all resolve to be bigger people for having known, and loved, the Big Man.”
Mike Hogan, the Argonauts’ communications manager and Schultz’s play-by-play counterpart on their 2018 and 2019 radio broadcasts, plus a long-time coworker of his from Schultz’s Fan 590 days, also had a lovely tribute on the team website. Some highlights:
I confess that I’m writing this through a waterfall of tears. My throat is tight, I feel a chill. There’s a feeling of disbelief as I try to find the correct words to express my feelings after just being told that Chris Schultz has passed away.
…Schultzy and I first connected in September 1993 when I was hosting a show at the Fan 590 and he was working his way through a season-ending knee injury. He and Brian Warren came to the studio to co-host with me and just talk some football. Warren was a defensive lineman with a silky-smooth voice that made Barry White sound like a Smurf. He’d go on to become one of the analysts when AM 640 had the Argo rights.
I got stuck with Chris. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.
If there was someone not cut out to be on radio and television circa 1993, it was the Big Man. In the early days of his broadcasting career he found it difficult, no, he found it impossible to criticize players. He knew what it was like to be on the other side of a harsh, sometimes inaccurate evaluation, and hated it. That was something he never felt comfortable with, even if he was pointing out something obvious.
…To say I’m happy to have had the opportunity to work with him would be a grotesque understatement. Schultzy used to test me often, particularly in the early days of our partnership. I’d be sitting doing some prep work and hear him randomly ask an Xs and Os question to test me. Sometimes I’d pass, other times I wouldn’t, but I’d learn, and was always anxious to tap into my 6’8” resource.
Long-time CFL and TSN reporter Dave Naylor shared his thoughts on Schultz in a TSN.ca piece. Some highlights:
When I got to know him at TSN, I understood how much football meant to him and how much he cherished every moment he got to spend in or around the game.
Our friendship grew to the point where we would have introspective conversations that were far more about human nature than football. We talked about the risks he faced having played in the pre concussion-awareness era, and whether he would do it again, given what he knew today. He said he would because nothing could equal those experiences he’d had as a player.
Chris had an innocent curiosity about the world beyond football and he would needle me about being the know-it-all guy. That was one of the dynamics in our friendship.
More than anything, he just loved to be around football, never more than during a Grey Cup or Super Bowl week, reminding us throughout how lucky we were to be there.
I can recall 30 minutes before a Super Bowl kickoff getting a text from him that read simply “I feel very special and lucky right now.” That kind of thing happened a few times.
And Schultz’s former Argos’ teammate Michael “Pinball” Clemons, a legend who would go on to serve as Argos’ head coach, GM, CEO, vice-chair, and now GM again (since 2019), had some touching thoughts in a piece at the team website:
“Chris Schultz was made to play football, or football was made for Chris Schultz. Either way it was a symbiotic relationship,” said former teammate and current Argos GM Michael Clemons. “At 6’7”, 310 or so muscled pounds, he was tenacious, prepared and dominant! His vigorous preparation both mentally and physically honored his profession. It would probably be fair to say, that football was his first love. He played for America’s team, and Canada’s team, we can argue about the latter of the two tomorrow, but not today. His passion reverberated on radio, television, coaching kids, or walking the dog. He was always willing to talk football! His friends, family and teammates were all in his locker room, where loyalty abounds. My good friend John and I spoke highly of Schultzy often. I’m disappointed because he had more to give, and my fervent hope is, he knew how much he was loved. I’m extending a warm virtual hug to the Argonaut and CFL family today.”
Bell Media’s SVP (sales and sports) Stewart Johnson, who was a key TSN executive throughout Schultz’s run there (including president of the network beginning in 2010), also had some thoughts on Schultz in a piece on their PR site:
“Chris Schultz was a gentle giant who brought passion, dedication, and energy to his coverage of the game,” said Stewart Johnston, Senior Vice President, Sales & Sports, Bell Media. “Chris was a unique voice in Canadian football broadcasting, and an iconic figure to fans across the country. He was also a friendly face to the whole team at our studios. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Chris’s family and friends. His impact upon football in Canada is simply unforgettable.”
Beyond that, Twitter filled up with thoughts from Schultz’s former coworkers and other members of the Canadian media. Here are some of those many tributes:
Heartbroken to hear of the passing of Chris Schultz; a Canadian football star and one of the CFL’s most passionate voices. He excelled on both sides of the border, and on TV and radio. A Cowboy, an Argo, a homegrown legend. We’ll miss him.
— Chris Cuthbert (@CCpxpSN) March 5, 2021
One of the greatest characters and biggest smiles I’ve ever met.
We love you Schultzy. https://t.co/pvxjrICWxO
— James Duthie (@tsnjamesduthie) March 5, 2021
Schultzy was hilarious. This is part of a silly bit we did with me trying out for the Argos in 1999. Schultzy was my coach. pic.twitter.com/NChA7M0xJW
— James Duthie (@tsnjamesduthie) March 5, 2021
More sad news: Chris Schultz was a big bear of a man but so funny, warm and welcoming, a beloved member of @TSN_Sports family. It was always a blast to spend time with him when football and hockey panels would switch up at the Studio 6 desk. We sat in the same far-right end seat. https://t.co/rXd9ikSdAX
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 5, 2021
Gutted today by the loss of our friend and longtime teammate Chris Schultz. Great football player – GREATER guy. We all @TSN_Sports loved him like the gigantic brother he was. Godspeed Big Man. RIP – Schultzie.????
— Rod Black ?? (@RodBlackTSN) March 5, 2021
Chris Schultz was a friend to everyone at TSN & the football community across ??. A Cowboy, an Argo, an analyst par excellence & a fan of the ultimate team game. He was a superb teammate.
Terribly saddened to learn of his passing. Condolences to his family/friends. RIP Big Man.
— Matthew Sekeres (@mattsekeres) March 5, 2021
No. This cannot be. God, no.
A wonderful person. A good, good friend.
Heartbroken to hear that Chris Schultz has passed away.
Far, far, far too soon.
Rest in peace, Schultzie. pic.twitter.com/SEqC7JWGMA
— Don Landry ???? (@donlandrymedia) March 5, 2021
A gentle giant ❤️
I adored working with Schultzy
His passion and energy was infectious… his work ethic was admirable… I will never forget all his hand written notes!
To say we will miss you big man is an understatement
RIP friend https://t.co/STWuk1ZYyK
— Kate Beirness (@KateBeirness) March 5, 2021
Chris Schultz was one of the first Canadian voices I learned football from. Not just as a broadcaster he’d go to camps and combines and work with kids to help them reach their dreams through the sport. We’ve lost another valued member of the football community too soon. RIP. pic.twitter.com/y2RH2bviLj
— Donnovan Bennett (@donnovanbennett) March 5, 2021
? I met Chris Schultz back when I was a game-day intern for the Argos. Treated me with the same dignity and respect backthen as he did when I got to TSN. Incredibly kind and funny. Thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time https://t.co/pvjOVH1FNx
— Kayla Grey (@Kayla_Grey) March 5, 2021
Another Schultzy story: When I started @TSN_Sports, Schultzy ALWAYS wanted my opinion. I thought: “I’m just some dude who doesn’t know how to hold a mic let alone know football like Chris Schultz.” I realized what he was doing: Schultzy was making me feel like a part of the team. https://t.co/UvgsplKlL4
— Matthew Scianitti (@TSNScianitti) March 5, 2021
Awful news. Chris was 1 of the best people in the business — in life! Big man w/ a bigger smile & a ton of kindness to give (& a crushing handshake). Producing for him (along w/ Hogie, Landry & others) & eventually hosting w/ him & workin alongside him was an honor. RIP, friend. https://t.co/MEe8Nv03Rs
— Eric Smith (@Eric__Smith) March 5, 2021
So sad to hear about the passing of Chris Schultz. During my time with the CFL on TSN team, The Big Man welcomed me immediately. When the cameras were on, he had fun…but he was also a no BS guy too. Just a wonderful teammate and will be missed.
— James Cybulski (@JamesCybulski) March 5, 2021
Chris Schultz was the first person we @MichaelFarber3 @bruce_arthur @simmonssteve would see after leaving the set of TSN The Reporters. He always arrived early for his Sunday CFL gigs, so he could watch us. We mourn the death of our "largest" fan/friend.
— Dave Hodge (@davehodge20) March 5, 2021
Chris Schultz was a gentle giant; magnetic, friendly, curious and kind. His gift to make everyone feel welcome and important is how I will remember him. Sending love to his family and dear friends.
— Brodie Lawson (@BrodieLawson) March 5, 2021
My first co-host in this business in the late 90's was Chris Schultz. CFL Weekly. Largest man I had met to that point. Large handshake. His heart was even bigger. 61 years. Brutal Schultzie. pic.twitter.com/anaRPZqEjv
— Rick Ralph (@RickRalphNS) March 5, 2021
Someone who was a workout buddy, friend and like a bigger brother to me passed away. Chris Schultz was someone I even talked about in my Huddle Up speeches. I will miss you pic.twitter.com/42OSRiasm9
— Jason Colero (@ArgoJC) March 5, 2021
Last RT: Chris Schultz was a great football player and broadcaster. He used humour and insight into the game to let fans like me inside the game in a real way. I met him once, my neck still hurts from looking that far up. A gentleman. Devastating. RIP.
— Lowetide (@Lowetide) March 5, 2021
Crossed paths with Chris Schultz many times on the CFL beat. A gigantic, friendly and kind man with the biggest smile in the world. So saddened to hear of his passing at age 61. Gone too soon.
— Bob Irving (@BobIrvingCJOB) March 5, 2021
The passing of #ChrisSchultz is crushing… Not only did he become one of my favourite people to work with, he was very special to me. He wrote many times to me while at @Sunnybrook. They were heartfelt & honest like him..This caught me today. I'm not good.. pic.twitter.com/VjExIuwpO1
— Mike Richards ???? (@RawMikeRichards) March 5, 2021
Chris Schultz was a gentle giant. He always made time for you in an interview setting or a casual conversation. His passion for the #CFL and the game of football leaped out of him. He will be sorely missed. #RIPChrisSchultz
— Dave Campbell (@Dave_CHED) March 5, 2021
As mentioned above, Schultz was an incredible ambassador for Purolator’s Tackle Hunger program, which began in 2003 and has led to more than 13 million pounds of food being donated to Canadian food banks. Renee Rouse, formerly of TSN PR, spotlighted that Friday, and mentioned that those missing Schultz can make donations in memory of him:
…to remember to bring their canned food donation to the game. He must’ve helped raise thousands of lbs of food for Canadian families in need.
He leaves a long legacy and this kind of real, tangible impact is something I will remember when I think of Schultzy…
— Renee Rouse (@reneerouse) March 5, 2021
Update – I just donated to @foodbankscanada and you can donate “in memory” ?
— Renee Rouse (@reneerouse) March 5, 2021
For those looking to donate in memory of Schultz, here’s the Food Banks Canada link.