CFL loses Hall of Famer Earl Lunsford
Legendary Stampeders running back remembered as 'great mentor, teacher'
Canadian Football Hall of Famer Earl Lunsford, known as the first player "to run for a mile," died at his home Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. He was 74.
Lunsford played six seasons in the Canadian Football League in the 1950s and 1960s, all with the Calgary Stampeders, and was a three-time recipient of the league's most outstanding player award.
Nicknamed Earthquake, he ranks second all-time in Stampeders rushing with 6,994 yards, including a CFL-leading 1,794 yards in 1961 that remains the second-highest single season total in franchise history.
Lunsford, who was elected to the hall of fame in 1963, scored a club-record five touchdowns against Edmonton in a Sept. 3, 1962, game.
He also posted five 1,000-yard seasons, a team-record 28 100-yard games and twice rushed for 200 yards in a contest before retiring in 1963 and later spending 15 years as general manager of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Lunsford broke into the CFL in 1956 and left at the end of the season to serve two years in the United States military.
He returned to Calgary in 1959 and played five more seasons, amassing 55 touchdowns on the ground, a mark that has yet to be surpassed by any Stampeder.
Away from the game, Lunsford was known as a man of honesty and integrity.
"Earl was passionately committed to the Canadian Football League, both as a player and a general manager," said Paul Robson, who worked under Lunsford as Blue Bombers assistant GM. "He was a straight-talking, no-nonsense Oklahoman who served the Winnipeg Football Club extremely well.
"First and foremost, he was a football executive that understood it was a business of professional sports entertainment. Personally, he was a great mentor and a great teacher."
A native of Stillwater, Ok., Lunsford witnessed many improvements to Winnipeg Stadium (now Canad Inns Stadium) during his time as Blue Bombers GM.
"Earl helped navigate through some tough times, and he was the one in charge during the stadium expansion from 22,000 to 32,000 seats," Robson said. "He was the GM when the upper deck additions to the East and West side were made."
In 1990, Lunsford was inducted into the builders category of the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame.
He is survived by his wife, Margot, children Brenda and Lamar and three grandchildren.