EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos held a downtown Grey Cup party Tuesday for hundreds of cheering, horn-blowing, bell-ringing fans.
And quarterback Mike Reilly admitted his team is not pretty — but it is pretty good.
"I told you guys we were gonna bring it home," Reilly, standing beside the Cup, said to the cheering throngs of fans, most dressed in green and gold.
He then gestured to his teammates and said, "They may not be the best looking, but I got the best teammates in the world."
The fans, basking in the bright early afternoon sun with temperatures around the freezing mark, came to celebrate the team's 14th CFL championship.
Some waved Eskimos flags the size of bedsheets. Team mascots hugged kids and posed for photos. Eskimos cheerleaders performed somersaults in the air and the players signed autographs on stage and tossed tiny footballs into the crowd.
The Eskimos defeated the Ottawa Redblacks 26-20 in the CFL title game Sunday in Winnipeg. It was the team's first championship in a decade, and just two years removed from a woeful 4-14 campaign.
Reilly told the crowd they remember those dark days.
"I told (defensive lineman) Odell (Willis) a couple of years ago when we could only win four games, I said, 'Man remember that because there's gonna be a time when it's all worth it,'" said Reilly.
Head coach Chris Jones called his team's performance a "magical ride."
"All these players, they sacrifice a lot for this city and to be able to play this game," he added.
He pointed at them and said, "You guys are the reason, man. You guys are the reason we put a championship back in this city."
General manager Ed Hervey labelled the fans the animating spirit of the franchise.
"It's very much appreciated, your loyalty to this club, your passion," said Hervey.
"I want to say this to you, we love all of you. I love you all personally," he added.
And as the cheering and horn-blowing again reached a crescendo, he shouted: "We're back!"