TORONTO — For all he has gone through, Obby Khan still hasn’t reached his most important goal in football.
The fun-loving Calgary Stampeders offensive lineman, who briefly retired in April, is looking to win his first-ever Grey Cup title Sunday in Toronto.
"I’ve been to two Grey Cups and lost them both, so hopefully this is the year I can win one," Khan told sportsnet.ca Tuesday during the team’s media luncheon. "You play to win a championship. I’ve never won one in my life."
Khan never filed his retirement papers after the 2011 season and always thought in the back of his mind he could still play at a high level.
By signing with Calgary in August, Khan found the perfect situation in which he could succeed, and his play has been admirable since the team brought him in as the sixth offensive lineman for a struggling group.
"I’m forever indebted to them for the opportunity to hopefully come and win that Grey Cup."
While the 31-year-old Khan is thrilled to be back fighting for another chance at his first Grey Cup, he can’t forget the path that brought him to this point; a path not typical for a professional football player.
During his early years in Winnipeg, Khan had one of the toughest spans of his life.
He was feeling sick on a daily basis and was rapidly losing weight, almost 100 pounds in one year.
"I would be sitting in (offensive) line meetings eating boiled rice and salmon for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Khan told CFL.ca. “I couldn’t eat anything else. I tried so many diets and alternatives. I couldn’t eat any fried food, fatty food, spicy food, chocolates, sweets, seasonings, fruits, vegetables. Nothing.”
He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and doctors recommended surgery to remove his large intestine, something he was extremely reluctant to do.
It didn’t get any easier for Khan.
In 2007, one of Khan’s most important influences, his father Iftikhar, died after a battle with liver cancer.
Kahn’s father always wanted him to be strong and overcome his disease in order to continue his football career.
“He always said, ‘Never complain about what you’ve got. It can always be worse," Khan told CFL.ca in 2008. "You’ll come back; people will look up to you for it.’”
The lasting message helped get his career and life back on track.
He was limited to only 13 games during the 2007-08 seasons, but rebounded to play three consecutive full seasons during the next three years.
Kahn is a three-time recipient of the Cal Murphy "Heart of a Legend" award, given to the Winnipeg player who best "demonstrates outstanding sportsmanship and dedication to the CFL and community."
And now, after a brief stint on his couch, he‘s back on the field chasing his longtime dream.
"(This is the) most special moment of my life," a thrilled Khan said. "Hands down, I don’t think anything can compete with the Grey Cup after the rollercoaster ride I’ve been on the last little while."
After coming up short in last year’s Grey Cup in the 34-23 loss to B.C., the excitable offensive lineman feels the Stampeders are on a special path and have what it takes to win the championship game on Sunday.
"Destiny, coincidence…whatever you want to call it. (Kevin) Glenn coming back to Toronto and hopefully getting a shot to win it. The roll that we’ve been on this year with all the naysayers. The injuries we’ve had. But we’ve battled week in and week out and we’ve still won."
If anyone has earned the right to reach the pinnacle of his game, it’s certainly Khan.