This is the seventh 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)
He could run. He could catch. And, well, he could run. And run. He could around you, through you and away from you. They called him “The Knife” and for four seasons in Winnipeg, he knifed through the opposition as if it was hot butter.
Dave Raimey arrived in Winnipeg from the University of Michigan via the Cleveland Browns in 1965 and sparked the Great Comeback Year. In fact, how about this for a start? Raimey burst onto the scene to share running duties with the incomparable Leo (The Lincoln Locomotive) Lewis and proceeded to rack up 1,520 yards on 130 carries for an eye-popping 8.1 yard average. Just for fun, he also led the Canadian Football League in kickoff return average.
His speed, power and, especially, his elusiveness included a 105 yard kick-return touchdown and a 96-yard pass-and-run touchdown. Winnipeg was 1-14-1 in 1964. In 1965, with Lewis and Raimey in the backfield, the Bombers went 11-5-0 and got back to the Grey Cup.
When Raimey played fans could always count on at least one incredible, scintillating run, (especially on Bud Grant’s “sweeps”) per game. He was pure excitement every time he touched the ball. Raimey was a Western conference all-star for all four years he played in Winnipeg (1965 to 1968), and an all-CFL standout in 1966.
In a pre-season game against Ottawa in 1966, he scored all five Bombers touchdowns in a 42-35 loss. That year he was named the Bombers most popular player. In 1968 in a game against Edmonton, the Bombers upset the Eskimos 25-13 with only 32 passing yards in the game. The Bombers won because Raimey carried the ball 11 times for 175 yards — even though the Eskimos knew he was coming on every play. In 1967, he turned a broken play (the sweep was cut off) into a touchdown, but he had to run close to 70 yards to get 25 yards to the end zone. He went left, right, left, into the middle, then right (all the time surrounded by defensive players) until a small hole opened and, in a blink, he was gone.
However, in the end the Bombers were in so much trouble on and off the field that they felt they had to get a quarterback — any quarterback — and they dealt Raimey to the Toronto Argonauts for a QB named Wally Gabler (anyone remember him?). So after roughly 4 ½ yrs of unbelievable running, cutting, slashing and keeping the Blue and Gold somewhat respectable, he was gone!
When he was traded he asked Bombers brass where they were sending him. When the Bombers said, “Toronto,” his response was, “How fast can I get there?” He was a big-city player who was dying to play in Canada’s big city and the Bombers, to their everlasting dismay, gave him his wish.
During his 10-year CFL career, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound back from Dayton, Ohio, played only six years as a running back and rushed for 5,528 yards on 883 carries for a tremendous 6.3 yard per rush average and 25 touchdowns. When Leon McQuay showed up in Toronto, Raimey moved to defensive back and was outstanding. Just for laughs, he also returned punts and kickoffs.
One can only wonder what he might have done if he had played his career with the Dynasty Team of 1957-65 or even the Blue Thunder Bombers from 1984-90. In any event, there was no other running back quite like him and no other back had his unique ability to use power, speed and elusiveness to outsmart and outrun the defenses that tried in vane to stop him. As an article in the old Weekend Magazine once stated: ”Don’t let this man loose”
He was inducted into the Blue Bombers Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2000.