Vernon Pahl was at a crossroads.
He was driving from Montreal to Atlantic Canada in 1976 to study and play football but was torn between UNB or UPEI.
“I kind of let the car make the decision,” he said. “I got in my old 1967 Dodge Coronet that I bought for $100 and it was loaded up. When I came to the exit for Fredericton, I just kept driving. I went to the ferry, took it over and I never looked back.”
Pahl became one of the Panthers best football players and had a nine-year career in the Canadian Football League with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Mike Lyriotokis played with Pahl and read his citation at his induction ceremony into the UPEI Sports Hall of Fame.
“One of UPEI’s football greats, Vernon Pahl was a staple on the offence,” he said. “He was a powerful guard, who used his strength to protect the quarterback against oncoming defenders and cleared holes for his running back to sprint through.”
In his final season at UPEI, Pahl moved to the defensive side of the ball and wreaked havoc and forced numerous turnovers.
Pahl compared a football team to an orchestra working together to make beautiful music.
“It was fun to work on a play that required the co-ordination of 12 individuals and then have that play succeed, where all 12 individuals did their job,” he said.
Pahl was drafted by Winnipeg in the 1980 CFL draft and played his entire professional career with the Blue Bombers, earning two Grey Cups along the way.
The day after retiring, a few of his teammates threw a party in the condo Pahl was living in, but he wasn’t invited.
“When you’re in, you’re in. When you’re out, you’re really out,” he said.
It helped Pahl make a cut from the sport. Within 72 hours, he was packed up and moved on.
Following his football career, Pahl worked on tall ships.
“After five years of sailing all around the world, even paradise gets boring. It’s not an occupation that has a great financial reward.”
Pahl studied law at the University of Calgary. Vernon was called to the British Columbia Bar in 1998 and has focused on civil litigation throughout his entire 21-year legal career.
“It isn’t always about football,” Pahl said about his time studying philosophy at UPEI. “This is where I came and actually started to learn how to read, how to write and how to think and it served me the rest of my life.”
Pahl thanked the university for the honour and his teammates for memories that remain vivid 40 years later.
Mitchell Tweel said Pahl also played an indispensable role in bringing tackle football back to Prince Edward Island in the early 1990s. Tweel, who was the president of the board of directors, said Pahl was the guest speak at a fundraising dinner and later put on training camps for Island youth.
“When Vernon got involved with our campaign, he gave us credibility and people started to stand up and take notice,” Tweel said. “We couldn't have done it without him.”