As It Happens

Chuck Ealey's daughter traces his journey from poverty and segregation to CFL star quarterback

Success was a stone's throw away. After growing up in a low-income, segregated community, Chuck Ealey beat the odds and became a star quarterback. Now his story is told in new children's book called The Stone Thrower, written by his daughter Jael Ealey Richardson.

Jael Ealey Richardson tells her father's story in a children's book called The Stone Thrower

Author Jael Ealey Richardson, let, with her father and former CFL quarterback, Chuck Ealey. (CBC)

This article was published July 1, 2016.


Jael Ealey Richardson says her new book is "a story about a kid who lived in hard times, a kid who had a big dream that seemed almost impossible."

The kid is Ealey Richardson's father, Chuck Ealey. And his story is the basis of her new children's book, The Stone Thrower.

Both Ealey Richardson and her father joined As it Happens host Carol Off in Toronto to discuss the book.

"I think there are lots of kids who've been through really rough circumstances, and who think it's hopeless. And I really wanted to convey that hope, and what that comes from," Ealey Richardson said. 

Throwing stones

Ealey grew up Portsmouth, Ohio, in the 1950s. His mother was a single parent. They lived in poverty in a community that was segregated.

As a boy, Ealey would go to the train tracks and throw stones at the trains passing through, picking out letters that he would try to hit on the moving train. He became so good at throwing that he became a star quarterback.

Ealey Richardson says she learned a lot about her father's life in writing his story.

"I saw the space where he grew up, and it changed everything," she said. "It sort of turned the wheels in my mind when I learned that all of his classmates were white. It threw everything that I knew about him and everything that I'd experienced growing up into a whole new light."

The Stone Thrower, written by Jael Ealey Richardson. Pictures by Matt James. Published by Groundwood Books. (Groundwood Books)

Ealey was a star quarterback in high school and college, and was nominated for the Heisman Trophy. As he neared the end of his college career, he wrote to every NFL team, asking that they consider him as a quarterback.

Not a single team signed him. And so, Ealey headed to Canada to play in the CFL, and he found life in Canada very different.

"It was almost like you had to lift a colour barrier off of yourself, like it was a blanket that was gone," he said. "People said hi. People came up to you that were of different colours and different backgrounds. And as I went into Toronto I saw a lot of different cultures and a lot of different things that I'd never seen."

Ealey says growing up, everything in his community was black or white, but that in Canada he was received into the community.

After signing with the Hamilton Ti-Cats, Ealey led the team to the 1972 Grey Cup Championship and was the game MVP. He was also named Most Outstanding Rookie for 1972.

The Stone Thrower is published by Groundwood Books.

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