Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers player personnel director Bill Quinter, one of the men most responsible for putting together the team that shocked the CFL and won the 1988 Grey Cup, passed away last weekend in West Kelowna, B.C. He was 74.
Known for his omnipresent cowboy hat and his warm smile, Quinter was a great judge of football talent who actually won two Cups as a player personnel director – in Winnipeg in 1988 and with the B.C. Lions in 1994. He was always friendly and forthright and loved nothing more than talking football.
Before coming to Winnipeg, he had been the general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Quinter spent 34 years in the Canadian Football League as a player, coach, personnel expert and general manager. He spent another 11 seasons working in the National Football League. He spent eight seasons as a talent evaluator with the New Orleans Saints and three with the Seattle Seahawks. At the end of his career, he developed amateur football players in his adopted home of British Columbia.
He was born in Maryland and dreamed of playing with his favorite team – the Washington Redskins. He attended Indiana University, where he was a tight end and defensive end for the Hoosiers from 1959-61. In 1962, he played with the Redskins in the preseason, but was one of the last cuts. He wound up later that season with the Ottawa Rough Riders and his life changed dramatically.
A 6-foot-2, 238-pound two-way player, Quinter spent four seasons with the Rough Riders and also worked as a teacher at Rideau High School, where a fellow teacher was Russ Jackson, the Rough Riders’ Canadian quarterback. After leaving the Riders after the 1965 playoffs, he became an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh.
He returned to Canada to be an assistant coach with the Toronto Argonauts and eventually joined the B.C. Lions in 1977 as an assistant under head coach Vic Rapp. Five years later he was promoted to director of player personnel.
He then went to Saskatchewan, was fired along with head coach Jack Gotta in 1986 and became player personnel director of the Bombers in 1987. After three seasons, he returned to the Lions as director of player personnel under general manager and head coach Bob O’Billovich, his former teammate in Ottawa. Quinter was fired by the Lions in 1995 after losing a power struggle with general manager Eric Tillman.
The Seattle Seahawks hired Quinter as a scout and he was eventually promoted to the post of professional scouting director. The New Orleans Saints hired him as player personnel assistant in 2000.
He was once asked how a kid who was born in Maryland used to work at Washington Senators games at Griffith Stadium became a cowboy hat-wearing Westerner.
“I started wearing the hat in B.C. because a friend of mine gave it to me,’ Quinter said in a 2009 interview with the Regina Leader-Post. “I kind of liked the hat so I started wearing it. I never presumed to be a cowboy. I like country-and-western music, so maybe I was a bit of a cowboy down deep.”