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Michael Pinball Clemons | CFL Legend | General Manager of the Toronto Argonauts

CFL legend Michael “Pinball” Clemons is an icon of sporting excellence, community leadership, and personal integrity. Considered one of the best athletes Canada has ever known, his real legacy may well lie with the thousands of people he has inspired, both on and off the field. With his signature charisma and relentless energy, Clemons shows us how to overcome impossible odds. More than skill, the crucial components of success are a strong character, a deep sense of belonging, and an unwavering commitment.

“Coaching was a job in which Clemon’s nurturing and paternalistic side was as important as his technical understanding of the game. He was willing to give a chance to players who clashed with management in other places or had problematic pasts. He was the definitive players’ coach.”

The Globe and Mail

Michael “Pinball” Clemons stands 5 feet 6 inches and weighs a mere 170 pounds. Despite being much smaller than the average football player, Clemons led a spectacular CFL career with the Toronto Argonauts. His diminutive frame, coupled with his razorsharp balance, allowed him to zip between defensive players effortlessly; a distinctive running style which earned him the nickname “Pinball” from his former coach Tom Cudney. During his twelve-year career, Clemons was named the CFL’s most outstanding player, won three Grey Cups, and set records for everything from career pass receptions to kickoff return yards. Clemons retired as a player and picked up the mantle of head coach and President of the Argonauts. He was the first black head coach to win a Grey Cup championship, and the second black coach to ever guide his team to a championship in North America.  For his outstanding contributions to the sport, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.


Clemons has also served as the Argos’ CEO and Vice Chair, and was recently appointed as the team’s General Manager. “Michael Clemons is the Toronto Argonauts personified and bleeds double blue. His passion for this team and this city, and his championship pedigree, will have a profound impact on the direction of this team moving forward,” said President Bill Manning. Throught his career, Clemons has also modeled a commitment to community—especially to youth—that is simply unparalleled. To give back, he founded the Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation, an organization that invests in youth education on a local and international scale. To date, the foundation has awarded 176 scholarships, placed 200 children in youth mentoring programs, and built 231 school houses catering to 9,000 children per year across 7 developing countries.



“On behalf of the ERAC staff and all our attendees, we’d like to thank Michael for speaking at the National Training Forum. We appreciate how he took the time to weave our organization in to his speech – based on comments, it was the highlight of the conference for many. They couldn’t stop talking about him for the rest of the conference. Michael’s energy and sincerity resonated with our attendees.”

Emergency Response Assistance Canada

“The event went very well, and Michael’s presentation was outstanding! We also really appreciate how he took the time to incorporate what our members do into his presentation. We really enjoyed having him at the conference, and he was kind enough to hang around for a bit after his session to meet and take pictures with delegates.”

Canadian Society of Customs Brokers

“Michael was absolutely amazing and did exactly what we asked him to do with the Closing message, he took the delegates on a roller coaster ride of emotion and left every one of the delegates on a high when they left the conference. He was so dynamic and touching at the same time. He was able to relate to the delegates and the importance of what they do for their organizations and communities. His message hit the mark. Michael was an absolute delight to work with.”

Alberta Culture

“Pinball was AMAZING! I just looked at our evaluations from the Summit and 100% of the participants rated his session as excellent—he is very dynamic and real and through his great story telling he provided some very good leadership points. I would recommend him to anyone looking for a motivating, inspiring, and all round great speaker!”

Revera Inc.

“In brief, Pinball was terrific. The presentation was high-energy entertainment for all participants, including those who are not sports or football fans. He truly is an engaging speaker. He did a tremendous job of ‘weaving in’ the information about Allstate that I’d provided for him. He used our conference theme, corporate data/statistics, information about our President etc. He also got the audience involved, which made a big difference.”

Allstate Insurance Corporation

“Michael electrified the room with his personality and super warm smile, and he made a point of getting to know each of the 200 people in the room. It was like reuniting with an old high school buddy from 30 years ago.”

Barrie Food Bank

“We have had several speakers over the past two years, but you are the best! Your passion, energy, humility, and great sense of humour really resonated with the group—I know they left the room pumped!”


“I knew Michael was going to be great, but he exceeded all expectations. He was absolutely amazing. The nicest man I have ever met. Everyone commented on how touched they were by his speech. The room was filled with laughter and tears. His stories were touching and hit close to home for a lot of us. I have never seen my team as excited about something has they were after Michael’s visit! I will be recommending Michael to friends and family, and other organizations as well. We were extremely pleased and blessed to have him attend our meeting.”

HD Supply Canada Inc.

“Thanks for the opportunity to have Mike Clemons come and speak to our team. He was simply amazing! I knew he would be a very inspirational speaker to have join us for this meeting and I am so pleased he was able to help us out.”

La Roche Ltd.

“I have received many messages of thanks from our Principals stating just how much they appreciated Michael’s presentation. His message touched the hearts and minds of our group. His personal and professional insights had a profound impact. His stories brought a sense of hope and inspiration to the entire group. These stories helped us to laugh and brought us to tears. He touched the audience deeply with his thoughtful and upbeat themes. Michael is truly a gifted speaker.”

Avon Maitland District School Board

Speech Topics

Overcoming the Impossible How to Cultivate Character and Beat the Odds

Because of his small stature, Michael “Pinball” Clemons’ chances for success in the realm of professional football were slim. Yet he never let the odds deter him. With fierce determination, incredible perseverance, and an unyielding belief in himself, Clemons shattered the expectations set before him to become a reigning champion and three-time Grey Cup Winner with the Toronto Argonauts. In this spirited motivational talk, Clemons shares  intimate details about his upbringing, his faith, and his commitment to a cause greater than himself. His talk inspires us to think beyond terms of skill, taking into account the importance of character in overcoming obstacles. Passionate, contagious, electrifying, Clemons’ shows us how to reach our true potential, by putting our mind—and heart—into everything we do.