This is the 12th in a series of 10 off-season “Blue Bomber Stories,” (yeah, yeah, we know, we just can’t help ourselves) that are actual excerpts from the next football book written by the authors of Quiet Hero: The Ken Ploen Story. Scott Taylor and Roy Rosmus provide young fans with an opportunity to learn a little about the history of one of the greatest franchises in CFL history…
By Roy Rosmus (with some help from Scott Taylor)
For years, die-hard Winnipeg football fans have had the same complaint, “Why is it that other teams can find a good young quarterback and develop him into a CFL star and yet the Blue Bombers can’t?” It’s a great question and the premise is no myth.
It’s been 39 years since the Winnipeg Blue Bombers went to Jacksonville State University and signed an undrafted free agent quarterback named Ralph Brock. He was signed to a one-year deal for the 1975 season. The Bombers had Chuck Ealey at quarterback, after they had traded away their “franchise” player Don Jonas a year earlier.
But Brock, who was born and raised in Birmingham, Ala., had quickly become known as the “Birmingham Rifle,” and by season stole the starting job from Ealey. By 1976, Brock was developing into one of the best quarterbacks in the Canadian game and by 1980, he was the best, winning back-to-back Most Outstanding Player Awards in ’80 and ’81.
Little did the Bombers know then, but Brock would be the last quarterback signed right out of college by the Bombers to develop into a CFL star. In fact, he was the only one to develop into a successful CFL regular.
Now, for the longest time, that wasn’t a bad thing. The Bombers won Grey Cups with players they acquired from other pro teams — Tom Clements from Hamilton, in exchange for a guy who now called himself Dieter Brock; Sean Salisbury from the bench of the Indianapolis Colt; and Tom Burgess from the Saskatchewan Roughriders — so that wasn’t a bad thing. They also had some successful QBs that were acquired from other pro teams — Matt Dunigan from the Toronto Argos; Khari Jones from the B.C. Lions; Kevin Glenn from the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Buck Pierce from the B.C. Lions. Granted, none of them won Grey Cups, but they all got there.
Then there were some dark times with the likes of Sammy Garza, Lee Saltz, Kent Austin, T.J. Rubley, Kevin McDougal, Troy Kopp, Brian Ah Yat, Pat Barnes, Tee Martin, Spergon Wynn, Reggie Slack, Michael Bishop and Ryan Dinwiddie — some were young guys the Bombers tried to develop, others were already failures when they got to Winnipeg, others were decent QBs in their younger days. None of them did very well in the ‘Peg.
Which brings us to 2013. The Bombers haven;t won a Grey Cup since 1990. Even worse, the club hasn’t developed a quarterback it can call its own since Dieter Brock rode into town into 1975 disguised as Ralph Brock.
If Buck Pierce is the regular starting quarterback this season, the Bombers will go 39 years without developing a QB right here at home. However, if Alex Brink, or Justin Goltz or Joey Elliott can win the starting job, the Bombers just might break their streak.
Then again, we’ll have to wait and see if this year’s crop of young QBs ever REALLY catches on. Because as Troy Kopp, Kevin McDougal or Brian Ah Yat will tell you, one or two starts does not make a CFL career.