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Photo by Peter Power/ Canadian Press

By Darryl G. Smart

As Mike Filer began to flourish as a football player in Brantford, he dreamed of playing in the Canadian Football League. Little did the Brantford Collegiate Institute alum know that he would not only get that opportunity, but have the impact on future local football players, as well as the communities he called home.

On Monday, the 31-year-old who spent nine years with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced his retirement from playing.

“Today is one of the hardest days of my life,” Filer said in a statement. “After nine years in the CFL with the Tiger-Cats, it is time for me to listen to my body and heart and hang up my cleats for the last time. It was a really tough decision. But, it was time I made this move.”

Filer, who arguably had one of his best seasons in 2019 – and was the team’s nominee for the CFL’s Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award – spent this offseason helping coach the Mount Allison University Mounties – where he went to school – while staying in shape for a possible return to the CFL. 

That’s where he caught the coaching bug.

“My next plan is to get into coaching as soon as I can. It’s now about dusting off the resumé and finding something, knocking on all the doors. During the pandemic I got into coaching and I really had a ball with it.”

Filer, along with his partner Jen Robinson and son Dax, returned to Hamilton from New Brunswick for training camp and worked out for about a week before leaving for personal reasons. 

“I went into camp, gave it a shot to see where I was, but I had to make the best decisions for myself and my family,” Filer told the Hamilton Spectator. “For a decade, I’ve put playing football in front of everything else.”

Looking back at his career, Filer can’t help but smile, having the opportunity to play his entire career for a team he would watch as a fan and security guard at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Filer was originally drafted in the fifth round, 31st overall, by the Calgary Stampeders in the 2012 CFL Draft. After being released by the Stamps, the Tiger-Cats took a chance on the rookie. That season he suited up for the Tiger-Cats and never looked back, playing in 112 regular season games and two Grey Cup games.

Filer quickly became a fixture and a leader in the dressing room and on the field, 

“Summing up Mike Filer in a few sentences is a disservice, but when I think about Mike I think about high character, perseverance, dependability, and leadership,” Tiger-Cats head coach Orlondo Steinauer said. “You knew you had a person that was going to put in the time and effort to be ready to play every week.

“Since 2012, people like Mike have been helping us build our foundation in Hamilton. Congratulations, Mike, on an outstanding career, and we wish you and your family all the best in life after football.”

But Filer’s impact was not only on the field. His impact on the Hamilton community was and still is as large as his personality. 

“Thank you TigerTown,” Filer said in his statement. “I still get shivers thinking about running out of the tunnel at Tim Hortons Field and hearing your roar. I also loved my time off the field in the community and am grateful for everyone I crossed paths with. Thank you, Hamilton, for allowing me to be a part of it all.”