Players, coaches and others are remembering record-setting Saskatchewan Roughriders running back George Reed, who died Sunday at age 83. He rewrote the CFL record book, brought the team their first championship in 1966 and made remarkable contributions off the field too.
Reed died Sunday in Regina one day before his 84th birthday
Jason Warick · CBC News
Players, coaches and others are remembering record-setting Saskatchewan Roughriders running back George Reed, who died Sunday at age 83.
“I had a little tear in my eye. He’s an icon in this province … He was an all-around great guy,” Roughriders fan Darrell Gibson said, standing outside Mosaic Stadium.
Roughriders CEO Craig Reynolds agreed.
“The word ‘legend’ gets thrown around a lot, but that’s exactly what George was. He was an absolute living legend,” Reynolds said. “He just lit up a room.”
The six-foot, 205-pound Reed played with the Riders from 1963 until 1975. Upon retirement, Reed was the league’s all-time leader in rushing yards (16,116) and rushing touchdowns (134).
Roughriders starting quarterback Jake Dolegala expressed condolences to the Reed family, after the team’s practice Tuesday.
“He encompasses what it means to be a Rider. To lose a legend like that, it hurts the whole (Roughrider) family,” he said.
Running back Jamal Morrow, who played college football at Washington State like Reed did, said the star “motivated me to be a better person and a better player.”
Reed rewrote the CFL record book and brought the Roughriders their first championship in 1966. But Gibson, Reynolds and others say Reed’s contributions off the field are also remarkable.
Roughrider team historian Rob Vanstone said one statistic stands out and it has nothing to do with touchdowns.
“At one time [Reed] was involved with 47 different community or charitable groups. At one time. Try to imagine that,” he said.
In the spring of 2021, Reed gave one of his final interviews as part of the CBC project Black on the Prairies. He discussed his unprecedented football career and his devotion to Special Olympics and other groups.
Reed also opened up about life as a Black man in Saskatchewan during the 1960s and beyond — how no one would rent an apartment to him for his first two seasons, how his off-season employer demoted him when he spoke out against racism in Canada, but also how some teammates like Ron Lancaster were courageous allies and friends.
Reed said progress is being made, but the struggle for equality isn’t over.
“I hope people will open their eyes and see what went on, what’s going on. It might not be quite as bad as south of the border, but for Aboriginal, Black, other — we need to make the situation a better one.
Despite these trials, Reed and his wife Angie chose to retire in Regina. He said they were blessed to make so many good friends, blessed to be able to make a difference in their community.
“I think the contribution that I’ve been able to make to the province of Saskatchewan and to the people, that’s probably more rewarding to me than what my football career was,” Reed said.
The Roughriders are planning a tribute during their home game on Saturday. Other commemorations are expected to be announced in the coming days.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.