Tommy Grant played 14 years in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. A flanker, return man, defensive back, and running back, Grant played in a record-tying nine Grey Cup games, winning four. He was a record-setting multisport high school athlete who briefly played baseball in the Detroit Tigers Minor League system.
Grant, born in Windsor on January 9, 1935, attended Patterson Collegiate, where he starred in multiple sports. He earned First-Team All City honours in both basketball in football for three consecutive years between 1951-52 and ’53-54. The feat had never before been accomplished.
Grant’s Patterson football teams won three consecutive WSSA Championships between 1951 and ’53, accumulating an undefeated 21-0 record. The team also won the 1951 WOSSA Championship with Grant at quarterback. He switched to halfback for the 1952 and ’53 seasons.
In 1951-52, Grant set a WOSSA junior basketball scoring record with 30 points while also helping the senior team to the All-Ontario finals. His Patterson basketball teams won the 1952 WSSA championship and the 1954 WSSA and All-Ontario titles.
In track and field, Grant won 28 WSSA and WOSSA medals – 13 gold and 4 silver at the WSSA level plus 6 further gold and 5 silver WOSSA medals. He was a four-time undefeated WSSA champion in the 100 and 220-yard dashes, a three-time undefeated WSSA broad jump champion, and an individual champion thrice at WSSA and once at WOSSA. He set WOSSA records in the 220-yard dash (twice) and the 880-yard relay.
Grant also excelled in baseball. A centerfielder, he signed a professional contract with the Detroit Tigers for a $2,500 bonus. He briefly played Minor League baseball in the Jamestown Class “D” Pony League and the Idaho Falls Class “C” Pioneer League before turning his full attention to football.
With the Windsor AKO Juniors, Grant was a League All-Star on a team that lost to the Winnipeg Rods 19-13 in the Canadian Championship Game.
Grant enjoyed a spectacular start to his CFL career in 1956. He won East Rookie of the Year honours en route to reaching the Eastern Conference Playoffs with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Over the course of his career, Grant earned a reputation as a return specialist. In his second season as a professional, Grant led the CFL with a 29.4-yard average across seven kickoff returns. Five years later, in 1962, he led the Eastern Conference in total return yards with 615 on 20 kickoff returns, giving him an impressive 30.8-yard average. Grant famously once ran back a kickoff 105 yards against the Montreal Alouettes.
In 1963, Grant was named an All-Eastern All-Star as a running back. The following year, he was selected to the 1964 All-Eastern and All-Canadian teams as a flanker. He also won the Schenley Award for the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian Player that year. The Tiger-Cats had previously nominated him for the honour in 1960 and 1963.
Grant’s Tiger-Cats reached an incredible nine Grey Cup games in his 14-year career. The team was crowned Grey Cup champions in 1957 (defeating Winnipeg), 1963 (BC), 1965 (Winnipeg) and 1967 (Saskatchewan).
In 1969, Grant moved from the Tiger-Cats to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he played one final season before retiring.
Grant finished his career with 54 touchdowns, 324 points, and 329 receptions for 6,542 yards. At the time of his retirement in 1969, Grant’s 19.9 yards-per-catch average placed him at number four on the CFL’s all-time list. He also accumulated 559 rushing yards on 127 carries for a 4.4 yards-per-carry average. Grant returned 215 punts for 1,229 yards and 80 kickoffs for 1,997 yards. He also managed four interceptions, totaling 82 return yards.
Grant was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
Tommy Grant passed away on October 18, 2011.