Len Skinner was the youngest player ever to sign for a Canadian Football League club. A linebacker, he played for Ottawa and Calgary in the late 1950s.
Skinner was born on March 8, 1939 in Windsor.
At Patterson Collegiate, Skinner established himself as an outstanding football player and track and field athlete under the great coach Al Newman. Skinner, who also played basketball, won virtually every shot put and discus competition he entered. Outside of school, he was a star linebacker for the AKO Fratmen.
Skinner’s success as a teenager earned him a tryout with the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders. 122 players attended the team’s rookie camp, but only Skinner, future hall of famer Russ Jackson, and the eventual standout Moe Racine were selected. The six-foot-two Skinner, who received an enormous signing bonus from the legendary coach Frank Clair, was prized for his impressive size. He became a professional football player at the unprecedented age of 18.
After one season in Ottawa, Skinner was traded to the Calgary Stampeders, where he immediately became the team’s starting middle linebacker. He also saw action as an offensive guard and on all special teams, but a broken leg in the tenth game prematurely ended his season. The following year, Skinner resumed his position as starting linebacker and continued to make a significant contribution on special teams. Unfortunately, almost exactly a year after his initial injury, he broke the same leg in the ninth game of the season. The second break ended his career in only its third year.
Although the Stampeders were interested in resigning Skinner for the following season, he opted to retire from football to preserve his long-term health.
Outside of football, Skinner worked as a police officer and trained horses for harness racing. He’s made significant contributions to the Windsor-Essex community as a youth football coach.