So it was fifty years ago this month that the 1968 Grey Cup Game between the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Calgary Stampeders was played. The Rough Riders’ quarterback that game was legendary Hall of Famer Russ Jackson.
After graduating from McMaster University of Hamilton in 1958, Jackson played for the Rough Riders from 1958 to 1969 leading the team to Grey Cup victories in 1960, 1968 and 1969. He also won the Schenley Award as the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 1963, 1966 and 1969, was the MVP in the 1969 Grey Cup game and also the winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy for being Canada’s most outstanding athlete in 1969. He therefore retired when he was still at the very top of his game. In November 2006 he was the number eight selection on TSN’s list of the top CFL players of all-time. All this I knew.
What I didn’t know was that the degree with which he graduated from McMaster was a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics! Moreover he was McMaster University’s nominee for a Rhodes Scholarship, but decided to pursue a career with the Rough Riders instead of going for the Rhodes Scholarship. Russ Jackson was clearly blessed with a positively intimidating mix of abilities.
I remember meeting Russ Jackson at a pre-game brunch prior to the 1987 Vanier Cup championship game for Canadian universities. The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds were heavily favoured to defeat the McGill Redmen. UBC were the defending champions and had been the dominant team out West. During his presentation, Jackson predicted a McGill victory. He pointed out a couple of key details. The weather was wet and cold and the field was sloppy. McGill had for several weeks played its games under really sloppy conditions but UBC had been playing its games under ideal field conditions. Secondly he showed us a clip of what the Thunderbirds liked to do on offence, and then told us how McGill could align its linebackers to take away what the Thunderbirds had been doing so successfully.
Well I looked for that McGill defensive alignment after the game started and the Redmen did precisely that. Final score: McGill 47 British Columbia 11. Russ Jackson had called it exactly.