News Release:

Montana: Canada's Football Foundry

There seems to be this relationship Wally Buono has with The Great State of Montana and it looks like it's going to last a lifetime. Buono, who is the second winningest coach in the history of the Canadian Football League, began rebuilding the CFL's BC Lions Football Club back in 2002 by adding the University of Montana's, Bob O'Billovich as an operational cornerstone. Bob was an outstanding athlete at the University of Montana and was the only varsity athlete to earn three varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball, serving as a captain in all three sports. From there, Buono summoned the help of a former quarterback who starred for C.M. Russell and the University of Montana, Dave Dickenson. Dickenson who had quarterbacked Buono's previous team, the Calgary Stampeders, had begun his NFL career. The offer to work again with Wally Buono was intriguing and, in a short period of time, a contract was assembled and Dave was back in the saddle as Wally's field general. 

The Montana connection doesn't stop there for Wally Buono although it does take a sharp turn in the road somewhere along Route 87 at Stanford, Montana. It is in Stanford, at the studio of bronze sculptor Steve Lillegard, that Wally Buono, the former CFL Montreal Alouette Linebacker, will be cast into a national trophy. The trophy, which is the centerpiece of the Wally Buono Award for Canadian Junior Football Players across the country, will be left up to Steve Lillegard and his creativity. Lillegard's creation will be housed in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ontario. Each year, a new trophy will be given to Canada's top junior football player. Junior football is comprised of two national leagues, who's players are the ages 18 through 22. The beginnings of the two leagues can be traced back to the early 1900's. 

As the story goes, Steve Lillegard was not even on the list of potential sculptors that were being interviewed for the project. The search had been focused on Canadian artists exclusively. It wasn't until former Montanan, Christina Saint-Marche, a director for The Saint Bernard Pass Charitable Foundation, passed by Lillegard's sign "on about eight separate occasions" that she decided to stop and speak to him. "I'd usually make the trip down Route 87 later in the day after Steve had closed his studio. One day, I decided to stop at studio as a result of 16 months of frustration in finding just the right person to design this bronze casting" stated Saint-Marche, the head of a fashion design house that bares her name in London, England. Christina , who raised in Billings, Montana, now resides in London, England and Calgary, Alberta. Much to her surprise, there in front of her, was the artist she had hoped for, sitting in this small town of less than 500 people, in the rural part of Montana. "Steve had no idea who I was or what I was looking for but he spent about two hours showing me his work and telling me about his life. The detail of his work was incredible and I knew, at that moment, we had found our man." However, the difficult task was not yet complete.

There was a Canadian committee which needed to be convinced that it would be best to allow this American artist, from a small town in Montana, to design a bronze statue that would be housed in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. A Hall of Fame, where all of the busts of the inductees and other awards are sculpted by recognized Canadian artists. Then there was Wally and Sande Buono. Wally, who is a humble man of modest beginnings, didn't want to bring too much attention to himself with an award that was reflective of his days as a player. Over a short period of time, the committee was convinced that Steve was their man. "I made a case based on the 'Wally Buono-Montana connection' and my own life in Montana. In my business, I get to travel the world and meet many people. The most committed people you will ever find. anywhere in the world, live in Montana. It can be seen on the athletic fields, on the farms and just about anywhere you look in this state" stated Christina Saint-Marche. Her speech to the committee was passionate as she asked for enough votes to award the contract to the Montana artist. "You can take the girl out of Montana but you can't take Montana out of my Mum. For as long as I can remember, she's been driving her car down there every few months to visit. It's really her home" stated 16 year-old Chance Saint-Marche, Christina and Richard Saint-Marche's Son. With Chance's video presentation of the Lillegard's sculptures, Christina was able to gather the needed votes and then some. Still, there was the convincing of Wally Buono to handle. "Anyone who knows of Wally Buono, the Montreal Alouette player, would know that he was a fierce competitor. Although he was not sizable for the position, Buono played outside linebacker where he was constantly found in a collision with anyone who had the football" said Saint-Marche. "As I look back over the CFL films we have gathered, I am amazed how much ground Wally covered and how hard of a tackler he was."

On May 1st, Steve Lillegard and Wally Buono met for the very first time. There was chemistry in the room and the final agreement was put in place to move forward with the sculpture. Lillegard's idea of "details" came down to not only exact measurements of Wally's playing days but also the type of cleats he wore, his old uniform and helmet and even if he had taped his cleats and hands. A pair of Puma brand football cleats from 1974 were found on E-Bay so that the exact detail could be included within the sculpture. No detail would be overlooked by the artist. "A commission of this magnitude comes down to chemistry between the artist and his subject. We feel we have that chemistry with Steve which we could not find with other artists. Steve has passion for his work and he happens to know a great deal about Montana football and it's relationship to the CFL. Most of all, Steve Lillegard resembles what Montana is all about. The average guy putting his heart into everything he does. You just don't find that type of commitment too often these days but you can see it just about everywhere you look in Montana" stated Saint-Marche.

And for the very first time, a small piece of Stanford, Montana will be seen in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame for all who visit. The plaque, as mounted below the bronze statue, will read, "Steve Lillegard - Artist, Stanford, Montana." For future Hall of Famers like Bob O'Billovich and Dave Dickenson it is a sense of Montana pride. 

For Additional Information:
Richard Saint Marche
Signature Entertainment
1000 de la Gauchetiere West
Suite 2400
Montreal, Quebec H3B 4W5

Tel: 514.448.2173

About Steve Lillegard:
Pictures of Steve and his work are available for print.
Direct quotes and contact information in Montana:

Steven E. Lillegard Studio and Foundry
P.O. Box 88
Stanford, Montana 59479
(406) 566-2552
E-Mail: mailto:""

About The Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum:

About the Canadian Football League:

About the Wally Buono Award:
The Wally Buono Award was established in 2003 by The Saint Bernard Pass Charitable Foundation for the purpose of recognizing Canada's top junior football player. The award is a national award. Recipients must prove their athletic and leadership ability on the field as well as a high level of leadership within their community. Previous recipients have included 2003 winner, Al Giacalone, who is a runningback for Canada's St. Mary's University. In 2004, Chris Ciezki, runningback for the University of British Columbia, was awarded the Wally Buono Award. Last year the award went to Jeff Halvorson of the Okanagan Sun Junior Football Club as the third winner of the Wally Buono Award. Known as the fastest man in junior football, Jeff died suddenly on the practice field on the first of September 2004, just before the end of a practice session. Halvorson was well on his way to breaking several Canadian national junior football rushing records. This year's winner will be announced on August 9th in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

About Wally Buono:
Wally Buono enters his fourth season as the Lions Head Coach and General Manager. Over the past three seasons, Buono has led the Lions to three consecutive playoff appearances and two consecutive first-place regular season finishes. Over a 16-year coaching career, Buono has led his clubs to nine division titles and three Grey Cup championships. Highly-respected among coaching peers, he has amassed a regular season record of 188-98-2, putting him second only to Don Matthews in all-time CFL wins. His consistency and success have been recognized with the CFL's Coach of the Year award in 1992 and 1993. Born in Potenza, Italy, in 1950, Wally moved to Canada in 1953 with his family, later playing minor football in Montreal. He attended Idaho State University and was a linebacker for the Bengals. Wally returned to Canada and played 10 seasons with the Montreal Alouettes as a linebacker and punter, playing in 152 games. Shortly after his retirement, Wally tried his hand at coaching, landing an assistant position with the Montreal organization in 1983. Four years later, Wally found himself in Calgary where he worked under Larry Kuharich until 1990 when Stamps' President Norman Kwong hired him as Head Coach of the Stamps. Aside from being an accomplished CFL coach, Wally is a noted contributor to the community, being recognized for his work with the Paul Harris award in 2001. Wally continues to donate a significant amount of time as an ambassador of the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation and as a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. After being diagnosed with angina in 2004, Wally has been spokesperson for Making the Connection TM, a program dedicated to the ongoing education of Canadians about the dangers of high cholesterol and its link to heart disease. Wally is also actively involved with Operation Christmas Child, giving presents of clothing and toys to children of impoverished nations. Wally and his wife Sande have four children, Amy, Dana, Christie and Michael and one Bichon Shih-Tzu named Heidi.

About Bob O'Billovich:
Bob O'Billovich has been involved with the CFL for over 25 years, serving as an administrator, a scout, an assistant coach and a head coach. Bob also spent time in front of the camera as part of TSN's CFL television broadcasts. Bob began his CFL career with the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1963, playing defensive back and quarterback. He began his CFL coaching career in 1974 as a guest coach with the Ottawa Rough Riders, and became an assistant in 1976, helping Ottawa to win their last Grey Cup. In 1982, he was named Head Coach of the Toronto Argonauts and went on to compile a record of 78-55-3, giving him the most wins in team history. Also with the Argos, Bob was named the CFL's Coach of the Year in 1983 and 1987, and appeared in the Grey Cup three times, leading the East Division club to five first place regular season finishes. Bob joined the BC Lions in 1990 where he served as the Vice President of Football Operations, General Manager and Head Coach, remaining in that position until the end of 1992. In 1993, Bob returned to the Argonauts to assume the duties of General Manager and Head Coach. He then relinquished his head coaching duties in 1995, so he could focus his energy on player recruitment. He has been credited for scouting the talents of Willie Pless, Dave Dickenson, Mike "Pinball" Clemons, Darren Flutie, Mark Boerigter, Matt Clark, and Mike Trevathan. Bob was an outstanding athlete at the University of Montana and was the only varsity athlete to earn three varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball, serving as a captain in all three sports. He was voted the school's Athlete of the Decade between the years 1960 and 1970. Bob and his wife Judy have three children, Tracy, Jodi and Coy.

About Dave Dickenson:
HT: 5.11
WT: 190
Birthdate: 1973-01-11
Born: Great Falls, Montana
College: University of Montana
Team: 4
CFL: 9
Acquired: Signed as a free agent 2003
2005: Set an all-time CFL record with a passing efficiency mark of 118.8. Fell just short of the attempts required to set a further mark with 74.0% completion rate. Started 11 of 14 games missing 4 due to a concussion. Named CFL Player of the Month for both July and September, and Player of the Week for Aug 16/05 & Sep 20/05. 2004: Missed 10 games due to a knee injury but came back to start the Grey Cup game vs Toronto. 2003: His 36 TD passes and 5,496 yards were the second-highest single season marks in BC history behind Doug Flutie. Named Offensive Player of the Month for August 2003 and Player of the Week in Week #5. 2000: Had an outstanding year with Calgary leading the CFL in passing efficiency (114.1) and completion % (64.3). Earned Player of the Week honours once and was named the CFL Most Outstanding Player.

Notable: Ranks 5th in Lions history with his 9,801 yards passing and 65 TD passes. Leads the Lions all-time in completion percentage at 69.3 on 989 attempts. In his three seasons with the Lions the team has compiled a 36-12 record. In 2003 he added his second honour for the Most Outstanding Player Award in the West. With Calgary, he was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in 2000 and has been named an All-Star in the West twice (2000, 2003). College: 1995: Led the Grizzlies to their second Big Sky Conference title in three years, and first-ever NCAA Division I-AA national championship. Was named Big Sky offensive MVP for the third straight year, after going 309-455 for 4,176 yards with 38 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Led the nation in passing yards per game (379.6 yards), touchdowns (38), and total offense per game (382.6 yards). 1994: Was 229-336 for 3,053 yards and 24 touchdowns with 6 interceptions. Named Big Sky Player of the Year for the second time. 1993: Went 262-390 for 3,640 yards, 24 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Named Big Sky Player of the Year for the first time, and led the Grizzlies to a conference title. 1992: Played in four games in his freshman year, and went 13-27 for 211 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Personal: Dickenson's favourite football moment to date was winning the 1995 NCAA Division I-AA Championship with Montana. During the off season, Dickenson enjoys playing golf and he admires PGA golfer Greg Norman and football player Drew Pearson. After moving to Canada in the late 1990s, Dickenson began to learn how to play hockey. His favourite book is Along Came a Spider by James Patterson, and he likes the movies Stripes and The Shawshank Redemption. Dickenson is married to Tammy, a pharmacist and along with daughter Avery Reese they make their off season home in Calgary.

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