He was a rugged defensive lineman who earned a Grey Cup ring with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before becoming a captain on the Toronto Argonauts famed "Dirty Dozen" defence.

On Thursday, former defensive tackle Bruce Smith died. He was 63.

Smith had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Smith played his college football at Colorado before beginning his Canadian Football League career with Hamilton in 1972. The native of Huntsville, Tex., was a member of the Ticats' squad that defeated Saskatchewan 13-10 at Ivor Wynne Stadium in the Grey Cup game that season.

But Smith readily admitted he came to Canada with a chip on his shoulder as a result of the racism he had faced earlier on in his life, and that hampered him early in his CFL career.

After the '72 season, Smith spent time with Edmonton and Ottawa before arriving in Toronto. He spent four seasons with the Argos (1976-'79) before leaving football and retiring.

Although Toronto posted losing records in each of the four years Smith was there, he and fellow teammates Granville (Granny) Liggins and Ecomet Burley helped anchor the team's "Dirty Dozen" defence, a unit that despite the squad's losing ways was still one of the CFL's best.

Smith dressed in 44 regular-season games with Toronto.

"The key to our defensive success was [assistant coach] Lamar Leachman," Smith recalled in a 1996 story on the Argos' website. "He was a coach ahead of his time, and he certainly made me the best player that I could become."

Fond memories

Despite the losing seasons, Smith always had fond memories of his time in an Argos uniform.

'I grew up in a totally segregated situation. [In Canada], people treat you on your own merits.' — Former CFL defensive lineman Bruce Smith

"It was some fun times; I remember that the Argos were a hot ticket," he said. "I liked living in Canada and the people here.

"Canada was much more an area of tolerance. People here just tend to get along."

That wasn't always the case when Smith was growing up in and experienced racism.

"I grew up in a totally segregated situation," said Smith. "[In Canada], people treat you on your own merits."

After football, Smith settled in Toronto and became a salesman with Canada Trust. He was a top seller in five of his six years there before ultimately establishing his own real estate firm, Bruce Smith Realty, in 1987.

Smith was also a man of faith, serving as the Chaplain for King Bay Chaplaincy and Upper Canada College's Chaplain Service. He spent a lot of time as a public speaker and was a children's book author.

"They used to call me the grizzly bear, but now I'm

Smith is survived by his wife, Shirley, and children Courtne and Coby.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.