Former Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart was honoured as one of the 2020 inductees into Football Manitoba's Hall of Fame this week.
Hart, who is from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and served two terms as Manitoba Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, was a left guard for the Winnipeg Senior Mustangs. He is the Football Manitoba Hall of Fame's first Indigenous inductee.
The Football Manitoba Hall of Fame held an in-person ceremony on July 13 at IG Field's Pinnacle Room for its 2020 inductees, more than two years after it had originally announced the five teams and 15 players, builders and coaches.
"It was an awesome experience in itself to see the football community, to be able to go up and say a few words, it was very touching for me," Hart said.
"I'm one of those First Nations kids that grew up in the North End, on the mean streets of Winnipeg, homeless at one time, who changed his life around to become a regional chief."
The inductees were to be recognized ahead of Friday night's Blue Bombers game at IG Field.
"I don't know what to expect," said Hart, when asked what his thoughts were heading onto the CFL gridiron to be honoured before the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Blue Bombers.
Rick Henkewich, chair of the Football Manitoba Hall of Fame, coached Hart when he played for the Winnipeg Hawkeyes.
"Kevin was one of those linemen who you never heard, his number was never called," he said.
"When you don't get your number called in a game, that means you have a technically sound game."
He spoke of the relief of finally holding a ceremony for the 2020 inductees.
"If I said I felt about a hundred pounds lighter would that make sense?" Henkewich said.
A virtual presentation occurred in 2021 in which Hart was inducted into the Hall of Fame by Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew.
"I hope all of his former teammates, and coaches and everyone that knew him during his football days is very proud of the fact that they played a role in helping bring him to the spot that he is in in his life," Kinew said during the Hall of Fame introduction.
"That side of it was probably 40 per cent of why we inducted him is because of his off-field work and what he's contributed to it," Henkewich said of Hart's off-field work such as helping Football Canada start its Diversity Task Force to his run for AFN national chief.