Frank Turville was a stellar all-around athlete and lawyer. Known as the “Booting Barrister,” he spent four years with the Toronto Argonauts, where he distinguished himself as one of the CFL’s greatest well-rounded players of the 1920s and ’30s. Legend has it that he once kicked a football 125 yards.
Turville was born in Port Arthur, Ontario, now Thunder Bay, on September 23, 1907. He moved to Windsor with his family at the age of 12.
In 1920, Turville enrolled at the Windsor Collegiate Institute, which would later become Patterson Collegiate. In high school, he starred in gymnastics, swimming, and track and field as an individual athlete. Turville also played centre for the school’s football team, forward in basketball, third-base in baseball, and goalkeeper in soccer. In 1925, Windsor Collegiate awarded Turville the William Costello Medal for overall excellence in sport and academics.
At the time, Windsor Collegiate’s sports teams competed across the border in the Southeastern Michigan League, where American-style football was swelling in popularity. It’s said now that the first forward passes thrown in Canadian football were thrown in those league games.
Turville attended the University of Western Ontario, where he was a standout football, basketball, and tennis star. At Western, Turville helped make up the university’s first intercollegiate basketball team in the 1926-27 season. Also in 1927, Turville led Western to the Intercollegiate Intermediate Football Title.
Turville eventually left Western to study law at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall. While living in the city, he joined the Toronto Argonauts at age 21 in 1928.
A brilliant running and kicking back, Turville spent four highly successful years with the Argos, where he drew acclaim for his punting, catching, and running abilities. In 1930, Turville won the Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy as the Canadian Football League’s Most Valuable Player.
In 1932, Turville moved to Hamilton to further his law career. Here, he played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, leading them to a 25-6 Grey Cup victory over Regina. That season, Turville was named to the first-ever Canadian Press CFL All-Star Team. He repeated the honour in 1933, ’34, and ’35.
Turville was the Big Four scoring champion in 1931, ’32, and ’34.
Upon his retirement from football in 1935, Turville held four Big Four records: most career field goals (20), most single points in a season (27), most scoring plays in one game (10), and most single points in a game (8). Turville scored an impressive 183 career recorded points in an era when CFL teams played six-game seasons. Impressively, this total omits two of his Argonauts seasons, as the CFL did not keep scoring records until 1932.
Turville was described by the Globe and Mail’s Gord Walker as “one of the most exciting players to watch in ‘Big Four’ football with his flair for colourful, running catches of punts.”
Durable Dave Sprague, a well-regarded CFL veteran who faced off against hundreds of players while representing Hamilton and Ottawa, once described Turville as the “greatest all-around player of them all.”
Frank Turville passed away on January 8, 1984. He was enshrined in the University of Western Ontario’s “W” Club Athletic Hall of Fame that same year.