When you go to McMahon Stadium, Tom Forzani is among those on the Wall of Fame as an all-time great with the Calgary Stampeders.

When you go to a Cochrane Cobras practice or game, you get to see him in real life, helping to develop talented young receivers for one of the best high school football programs in Alberta.

The legendary receiver had taken a step back from football for several years when he came to watch his nephew practice with the Cochrane Cobras.

Cobras co-head coach and then offensive coordinator Rob McNabb saw opportunity knocking. He invited Tom to join the coaching staff as receiver coach, and the rest is Cobras' history.

For over 20 years, Forzani has been providing Cobra receivers with the tools for success. Many of them have advanced to play at the university level, and some have gone on to be pros.

McNabb says Forzani started as a consultant in 1998 before joining the coaching staff full time.

When McNabb took on the additional duties as offensive coordinator for the Calgary Colts for five years, Forzani also signed on as receiver coach, then stayed one additional year with the junior club

"It was tough, but we did both at the same time," recalls McNabb.

The stability Forzani has brought to the Cobras coaching staff has been key in helping the Cobras develop their passing game, first with quarterback Nick Cote, Rob Cote's older brother.

"The kids love him," says McNabb. "He brings that next level. He gets kids thinking and doesn't run the same old drills every day."

After retiring from the Stamps, Forzani spent one year doing play-by-play with another legend, Bill Powell, in 1984. When brought back to the game by McNabb, he didn't realize how much we would enjoy it.

"I try to give my experience from playing the game for a long time, and I think the kids buy into it. They're eager to learn, and when you make sense, then it just becomes common sense."

A natural athlete and talented basketball player with the St. Francis Browns, he's had that drive to win.

"For me, that competitive edge makes it more enjoyable. I can't personally compete, but I can watch the results of my impact on the team."

"A lot of people say it's not about winning or losing, but how you play the game. Well, for me, I've got to win."

He says the majority of the players coming into the Cobras program have that same drive.

"They come in ready to go. Football is a major part of the lives of the kids playing with the Cobras. You can see it in their warmups, their play calling, and their attitude."

"The Cobras are far and away superior, and it shows on the scoreboard."

Tom's older brothers Joe and John played for the Utah State Aggies football team. Tom understood little about football when he graduated high school, but that all changed when his mother received a call from the Aggies head coach.

"He phoned my mom and said he wanted to give me a full-ride scholarship to play for the football team. He told my mom he owed her one."

As a freshman, he initially practiced as a quarterback and went on to play wide receiver.

He was one of two university players the Stampeders protected from the area in the player draft, and he went on to be an important part of the Stamps from 1973.-1983. At one point, he was able to play there with his older brothers.

Forzani is one of the best ever wide receivers for the CFL club. 

In his first season, Forzani caught 62 passes for 731 yards and was Calgary’s nominee for Rookie of the Year.

According to the Stamps record book, he led the team five times in receiving. He was a CFL all-star in 1977, a Western All-Star three times, and had 50 or more receptions for the Stamps in seven different seasons. He is tied for the club lead with Allen Pitts for most consecutive seasons with a reception with eleven. 

By the end of his career, he had accumulated 553 passes for 8,285 yards and 62 receiving touchdowns, placing him second best in the team's history.

He says to have the potential to be a top-notched receiver the bottom line is you have to be able to catch a ball. Everything else can be taught.

"If they have good hand-eye coordination, they can catch the ball, and they're willing to learn, then it's relatively easy."

He says the traits of a receiver are similar to those of a talented basketball player and believes time on the court would be well spent in nurturing those skills.

Forzani has been part of 13 Cobras provincial championship teams. The one championship game that stands out is when the Cobras went in as the underdog against the Holy Rosary Raiders.

"To win that one was pretty cool," he says. "They were definitely favoured to win, and you could tell by their body language before the game that they thought they were going to win. You could see it in their warm-ups, with their coaches, and even in their fans, and we beat them. I enjoyed that one. That one stands out."

The Cobras are coming off their seventh consecutive provincial championship, a record in Alberta high school football.

Tom ForzaniTom Forzani's name can be seen on the Calgary Stampeders Wall of Fame at McMahon Stadium. (Photo courtesy of Scott Grant)