This is the ninth 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)
History tends to tell us something about ourselves. When it comes to professional football, history tells us that if the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have local talent, they win. When they don’t they tend not to win. Check it out:
During the glory years from 1957 to 1962, the Bombers boasted a combination of the best Canadian and American talent of any team in Canada. However, they also had the best local talent ever assembled in the CFL.
The height of that success came in 1959 and 1960 when the Bombers had a total of 19 — out of 22 — Canadian players who were Winnipeggers. Really! Here are some names you might know: Ron (Pepe) Latourelle, Ed Kotowich, Norm Rauhaus, Henry Janzen, Cornel Piper and Steve Patrick.
Bud Grant said of Patrick and Piper, “Those two guards are as good or better than any American Pro.” These Winnipeg guys, most of them straight out of junior, weren’t just roster fillers to keep up the Canadian quota. They all played important and invaluable roles on Grant’s Dynasty teams. In fact, Grant would sub his local players into the lineup in place of his top Americans without worry. As a result, the Bombers won four Grey Cups over the next five years.
Grant was a fervent believer that Canadian talent was the lynchpin to victory for a CFL team. Imagine his glee at having access to so much local talent at that time.
Meanwhile, in the years 1984-1990 — the next three Grey Cups — the Bombers had less local talent, but it was every bit as great.
The best of the bunch, of course, was an offensive tackle named Chris Walby, arguably the greatest offensive lineman in CFL history. Although a draft pick of the Montreal Alouettes — as a defensive lineman no less — the Bombers of the day had the good sense to trade for him.
Among the other outstanding Winnipeggers in Dynasty No. 2 were Scott Flagel, Stan Mikawos and Doug MacIvor. Then, of course, there were players such as Joe Poplawski, Rod Hill, Bob Cameron, James Murphy and Trevor Kennerd who came from all over the United States and Canada and stayed to make their homes here during the off-season and still live here today!
This all proves, again, and again, that having a nose for Canadian talent, and especially local talent, has always meant success on the field. In fact, it makes one wonder why the Bombers have shown little or no interest in CFL Western all-star Donovan Alexander, nose tackle Don Oramasionwu (who played for the Bombers but got away) and tackle Eddie Steele (who wanted to play in Winnipeg but signed in Edmonton), all Winnipeggers playing for the Edmonton Eskimos.
By the way, it should be noted that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have never won a Grey Cup without a Winnipegger on the team.