Elmo Wright

Crazy Roscoe and His Stories: The First End Zone Dance in Pro Football

This is the fourth in a series of 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)

Paul Williams was an interesting player. A fast, skilled kick returner, defensive back and wide receiver, he came out of American University of California in 1969 and was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. He came to Winnipeg in 1970 and wore No. 29 and, literally, danced his way into CFL immortality.

History will tell us that the first recorded touchdown “spike” was offered up by Homer Jones, a wide receiver with the NFL’s New York Giants in 1965. The NFL will tell you that Jones’ spike was the origin of the “end zone dance” but while a college player had danced around the end zone in 1969, it wasn’t until Paul Williams cut the end zone rug in 1971 that the end zone dance arrived in professional football football.

Elmo Wright

In 1969, a wide receiver for the University of Houston, Elmo Wright, began celebrating his touchdowns with a little dance in the end zone. However, as an NFL player, Wright didn’t do the end zone dance until Nov. 18, 1973. That was in the midst of his third season with the Kansas City Chiefs and he caught a touchdown pass against the old Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) and started to celebrate in the end zone. NFL historians love to say that Wright’s dance was the first in NFL history.

However, the first touchdown dance in professional football took place at Winnipeg Stadium (later Canad Inns Stadium) in 1971 when Williams scored against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Crazy Roscoe was sitting in Section U, Row 30, in one of Seats 7-11 (he had plenty of family and friends at the game that day) when Williams crossed the goal line right in front  of him.

Paul Williams O-Pee-Chee football card, 1972.

“I guess we were ahead at the time because as we had always done, we were jumping up and congratulating everybody in and around us when suddenly an even bigger roar arose from the crowd,” Roscoe recalled. “I remember whipping around to see what was going on and suddenly laying my eyes on an incredible sight. There was Paul Williams ‘dancing around’ in the end zone celebrating his touchdown. Even the players on the field didn’t quite know what to make of it.  This was something no one had ever done before.  What was it?  No one seemed to care, it was just pure fun. Little did we know, but it was the advent of the end zone dance.

“We had seen, over the years, players throw the ball in the air or even spike the ball, but only from time to time. This was something new, exciting and different.”

The fans called Williams’ dance, “The Williams Wiggle.” One fan, sitting close to Roscoe got himself a No. 29 Bomber jersey with “Northern Dancer,” not “Williams” on the back.

You can read more about Paul Williams, the end zone dance and other Bomber “First” in our soon-to-be-published book, Legends and Heroes, an Illustrated History of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The back of Paul Williams 1972 O-Pee-Chee Football card. We’ve come a long way since then.

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