This is the eighth in a series of 10 off-season “Blue Bomber Stories,” 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)
Every real Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan knows about the greatness of a coach named Harry Peter (Bud) Grant. Wonder if people know that he was a great athlete, too?
If Bomber fans don’t know him as Winnipeg’s greatest coach, they probably know him as the Minnesota Vikings greatest coach and probably the reason your grandfather starting cheering for the Vikings in the first place.
As a coach, he became one of those rare individuals who was enshrined in both the Canadian Football and NFL Halls of Fame. We also know he was the first coach to 100 wins and we know all about the Blue Bomber dynasty over which he presided over.
But not everyone knows that he was a great player and an exceptional all-around athlete.
Bud (his mother used to call him “Buddy Boy”), was active in sports from his early school days. This amazing man was a high school star in baseball, basketball and football. At the University of Minnesota, he was nine-time Letterman for the Golden Gophers and played all three sports as a varsity athlete. He earned All-Big 10 honours twice as a football player.
When Grant graduated, he was selected in the first round of the 1950 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, but declined to join the Eagles in order to keep playing NBA basketball for his hometown Minneapolis Lakers in 1949. He’d been drafted in the fourth round by the Lakers and in his rookie season, the team went 51-17 and won the NBA championship.
After winning an NBA title, he decided to try to play both sports and played the 1951-52 season with the Lakers and the 1951 campaign with the Eagles. He first played as a defensive end and led the team in QB sacks. He then switched to receiver in 1952 and ranked second in the NFL with 56 receptions for 997 yards and seven touchdowns.
In 1952 he became the first pro athlete to “play out his option” with the Eagles and came north to Winnipeg for “significantly” more money. In 1953 Bud Grant joined the Bombers and started a solid four-year playing career.
In Winnipeg, he played both ways, as a receiver and a defensive back. On offence, he was a three-time all-star and led the West in receiving in 1953, 1954 and again in 1956. Meanwhile, as a defensive back, he set a playoff record that still stands to this day. He intercepted five passes in Game 1 of the series against Regina, then promptly intercepted two more passes in Game 2. That led to his only appearance in the Grey Cup as a player, a loss was 1953.
By the end of the 1956 season, he had so impressed the Bomber Brass with his ability to adjust both on offence and defense that the club offered him the head coaching position. He then parlayed his knowledge of the game into the Blue Bombers dynasty of the 50s and 60s.