Former Stampeders QB Jerry Keeling dead at 78

Former Calgary Stampeder Jerry Keeling, who quarterbacked the team to the 1971 Grey Cup title, has died. He was 78.

Hall of Famer led Calgary to 1971 Grey Cup win, ending a 23-year title drought

Former Calgary Stampeders quarterback Jerry Keeling avoids a tackle during the 1972 season, his final year with the club before moving on to the Ottawa Rough Riders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. (Stampeders.com / Scott Grant)

Former Calgary Stampeder Jerry Keeling, who quarterbacked the team to the 1971 Grey Cup title, has died. He was 78.

The Stampeders announced his death Saturday in a press release.

Keeling — known as "Bones" to his teammates because of his slender build — joined the Stampeders in 1961 after a standout career at the University of Tulsa.

He first made a name for himself as a defensive halfback, earning CFL all-star honours in 1964, 1965 and 1967 and was a five-time division all-star on the defensive side of the ball. Keeling moved to the top of the depth chart at quarterback when Peter Liske left for the NFL.

With Keeling under centre, the Stampeders reached the West final in 1969, the Grey Cup final in 1970, and won the championship in 1971 with a victory over the Toronto Argonauts, ending a 23-year title drought.

Keeling played one more season for the Stamps in 1972 before moving on to the Ottawa Rough Riders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He retired in 1975 but returned to Calgary in 1982 and 1983 to serve as an assistant coach for the Stampeders.

Keeling was voted to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1989 and added to the Stampeders' Wall of Fame in 1990.

Former Calgary Stampeders quarterback Jerry Keeling throws to teammate Rudy Linterman during first quarter CFL Grey Cup action against the Montreal Alouettes on Nov. 28, 1970 in Toronto. (The Canadian Press)

As one of the best two-way players in franchise history, Keeling has his name in two places in the CFL record books. He shares the CFL's record for the longest pass, a 109-yard connection with Terry Evanshen at Winnipeg on Sept. 27, 1966, and also has one of the longest fumble returns in league history, a 102-yarder against B.C. on Sept. 22, 1964.

During his 15 seasons in the CFL, including seven at quarterback as his primary position, Keeling completed 1,302 passes for 18,239 yards and 119 touchdowns.

Keeling was born in Paris, Tex., and grew up in Enid, Okla. He was living in Oklahoma with his wife Vella when he died.