Bob Simpson was a standout multisport athlete and Olympian who is best known for his time with the Ottawa Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League. Simpson won the 1951 and ’60 Grey Cups and garnered several individual awards over a distinguished 13-year career. His 65 career touchdowns – including a remarkable 12 defensive touchdowns – remained a CFL record for 13 years.
Simpson was born in Windsor on April 20, 1930. As a teenager, he attended Patterson Collegiate and starred for the school’s football, basketball, and track and field teams. On the football field, he achieved First Team All-City honours in WSSA competition in 1948.
In 1948, Simpson became the first WSSA athlete to gain First Team All-City honours in football and basketball in the same year. The following year, he added a second All-City nod as a basketball player.
From 1947 to ’49, Simpson’s Patterson Collegiate Panthers won three consecutive WSSA and SWOSSA basketball titles. In 1947 and ’48, the team also won the OFSAA All-Ontario Championship.
Simpson starred for Patterson’s track and field team in 1948 and ’49, winning 11 event medals and three individual titles (two WSSA and one WOSSA). In 1948, he won WSSA gold in the hop, step, and jump, silver in the shot put, and bronze in high jump and the 120-yard hurdles. He added a WOSSA bronze in shot put. The following year, Simpson added WSSA gold in hop, step, and jump and shot put, WSSA bronze in high jump and broad jump, WOSSA gold in shot put and broad jump, and WOSSA bronze in high jump.
In 1949, Simpsons starred for the Senior Windsor Rockets in the Ontario Rugby Football Union. He also found time to suit up for the Assumption College men’s basketball team in 1949-50.
During an illustrious professional football career with the Rough Riders, Simpson won a pair of Grey Cups spaced nearly a decade apart. Simpson’s team defeated Saskatchewan 21-14 in 1951 and Edmonton 16-6 in ’60 to twice claim Canadian football’s greatest prize.
Over his CFL career, Simpson caught 274 passes for 6,034 yards, scoring 65 touchdowns and 386 total points. Significantly, Simpson played half of his career in an era in which the CFL awarded five points per touchdown. (His adjusted career point total is 420.) His career yards-per-catch average of 22.0 is the second highest in the history of the CFL.
As a Rough Rider, Simpson was a four-time All-Canadian selection and an eight-time Eastern Conference All-Star. Incredibly, his eight nominations came at four difference positions: Offensive End in 1951, ’56, and ’59, Flying Wing in ’52 and ’53, Running Back in ’57, and Defensive Back in ’57 and ’58.
The Rough Riders nominated Simpson for the Schenley Most Outstanding Canadian Award in 1954, ’55, and ’56. In 1956, he finished as runner-up for the league-wide honour. In 1957, Simpson played in the East-West All-Star Game and was named Most Outstanding Player.
During his time with the Rough Riders, Simpsons also played for the Tillsonburg Livingstons basketball team, which won the Canadian Senior Men’s Championship in 1952. The victory made Simpson one of the rare Canadian athletes to win two national championships in different sports in a single year. As Canadian Champions, Simpson and the Livingstons represented the country at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
Bob Simpson is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, inducted in 1976 and ’67 respectively.
He passed away in Ottawa on Wednesday, November 28, 2007.