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MISSOULA — Scratch it off the list of memorable sports sights you never envisioned.

Red and white confetti raining down while a hulking, long-haired alpha male hoists above his head a trophy the size of a Studebaker. Sharing the same awards podium with this muscle-bound ex-Montana State standout is the king of all Montana Grizzlies.

Let it soak in for a moment: You've got Alex Singleton, a former Bobcat and the best darn defensive player in the Canadian Football League for two years running. And Dave Dickenson, a relentless head coach who paved the way for  Singleton and the Calgary Stampeders to win the Grey Cup in convincing fashion last weekend.

Who says the Griz and Cats can't work well together?

"The more it sinks in, the more you realize just how cool it is, the things that go along with us winning the oldest trophy in North America," Singleton said on Friday. "To think that three years ago I was (Dickenson's) first draft pick up here ...

"Being a part of the tradition of Cat-Griz, and now to be able to win this with the greatest Griz of all time, that's pretty cool."

Don't get the wrong idea about Dickenson and his prized linebacker. It's not like they're out having brews at Buffalo Wild Wings on their days off.

Yet they've managed to form a special bond. So much so they make friendly wagers on the Brawl of the Wild, with Dickenson coming out on the short end two weeks ago, forced to wear a Bobcat shirt for a day.

"To be able to make a Griz like that wear a Bobcat shirt three years in a row, it's pretty cool," Singleton said playfully. "The boys handled their business.

"The wagering never dies, no matter how separated you are by a generation of football or coach to player. When you get that Cat-Griz rivalry in you, it never stops."

On Tuesday, Dickenson will receive the ultimate honor for his career as Montana's QB when he is inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in New York. But as spine-tingling as that moment will be, Dickenson is going to have a hard time upstaging the moment Singleton shared with his sister on the football field after the Stampeders secured their title.

Born with Down Syndrome, Ashley Singleton hugged her younger brother Alex for what seemed like an eternity. It ranked right up there with my favorite sports moments of the year, reminding me what's truly important on this crazy, mixed-up planet.

Alex will tell you that Ashley, whom he coaches in Special Olympics, has taught him a lot about life. That win or lose, there's no such thing as a bad day.

Regardless of what happens from this day forward, last week's magical moment for Singleton, his teammates, his head coach and his family is locked in time. The names are on the trophy now.

After two straight years of losing in the Grey Cup final, this was, in Singleton's words, "silencing everybody forever."

And to think, it took an irreplaceable Griz-Cat combination to get it done. A CFL version of the old New York Giants combination, if you will, with Bill Parcells as the head coach and Lawrence Taylor as the star linebacker.

If you weren't a fan of the CFL before, last weekend will most certainly help. And if you weren't quite sold on Dickenson as a championship coach before, it might help you to know what his best linebacker has to say about him.   

"He's a quieter guy, but you can tell his work ethic and drive to win is, I believe, parallel to none," Singleton said.

"Since the day he started playing football he's won championships. From (Great Falls CMR) to Missoula to playing in the CFL to now. That's a long-running time to be that great. I won my first championship on Sunday. He's been doing it since the early 1990s."

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Bill Speltz is the Deputy Sports Editor of the Missoulian. Email him at bill.speltz@406mtsports.com.

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