George Reed | The Canadian Encyclopedia


George Reed

George Robert Reed, CM, SOM, football player (born 2 October 1939 in Vicksburg, Mississippi; died 1 October 2023 in Regina, SK). George Reed was a fullback with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (1963–75) and one of the best players in Canadian Football League (CFL) history. A Grey Cup champion and the game’s MVP in 1966, Reed set 44 CFL records, including 16,116 rushing yards, 134 rushing touchdowns, 11 seasons with more than 1,000 yards, and 300 passes caught for 2,772 yards. A nine-time CFL All-Star and the 1965 Schenley Award winner as the league’s best player, Reed was also president of the CFL Players' Association and was heavily involved in charity work. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum, the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, among many other honours.

Career Highlights

Raised in the Seattle suburb of Renton, George Reed played college football at Washington State University as a fullback and linebacker. He graduated with a degree in education in 1962.

He began playing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1963 and quickly made an impact. In 1965, he won the CFL’s Schenley Award (now the Most Outstanding Player Award) after setting franchise records for most rushing yards in a game (268) and a season (1,768). On 26 November 1966, he rushed for 133 yards and one touchdown to help the Roughriders win their first ever Grey Cup with a 29–14 victory over the Ottawa Rough Riders. Reed was named the Grey Cup MVP. In 1967, he became the first CFL player to rush for 200 yards in a playoff game, notching 204 yards in a 17–13 victory over the Calgary Stampeders.

Reed was the runner-up for the Shenley Award in 1968 and 1969. He and the Roughriders made it to the Grey Cup in 1967, 1969 and 1972 but lost. In 1973, he was featured in Sports Illustrated magazine shortly before passing NFL legend Jim Brown to claim the professional football record for most rushing yards with 12,313. The City of Regina declared 7 October 1973 George Reed Day. The province of Saskatchewan, for that day only, declared that 7 October would be 34 October — Reed’s number.

Reed led the CFL in rushing for five consecutive season (1965–69) and again in 1974. In 1975, when Reed turned 36, he rushed for 1,454 yards — the third most in his career — and rushed for at least 1,000 yards in a season for the 11th time. He led the CFL in rushing six times and was named a West All-Star 10 times and a CFL All-Star nine times. After retiring in 1976, he became the inaugural recipient of the CFL’s Tom Pate Memorial Award, which recognizes outstanding sportsmanship. Reed retired with a total 16,116 rushing yards, plus 2,930 yards in the post-season. His record of 134 career rushing touchdowns stands to this day.

Charity Work and Other Activities

In 1975, Reed established the George Reed Foundation to assist Special Olympics athletes and people with physical disabilities. He was one of Special Olympics Canada’s first-ever celebrity ambassadors. Reed was so active in charity work that at one point he was involved with at least 47 organizations. “If you want something done,” he once said, “ask a busy person.” He was also president of the CFL Players’ Association (1972–81; 1986–93) and the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2014, the George Reed Centre for Accessible Visual Communications opened at the University of Regina’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, thanks to a $150,000 gift from the George Reed Foundation. The Foundation later donated an additional $250,000 to the centre.

Personal Life and Family

George Reed and his wife, Angie, were married for 62 years and had three children: Keith, Vicki and Georgette. Georgette Reed was an accomplished track and field athlete. She competed for Canada in women’s shot put at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games and the 1994 Commonwealth Games and held 17 national titles: 15 in shot put and two in discus. She was head coach of track and field at the University of Alberta (2002–12) and has been the athletic director at Capilano University in North Vancouver since 2022.

After his playing career ended, Reed and his wife continued to live in Regina, where he worked for Molson Brewery. In 1984 they moved to Calgary, where he worked for Molson as a district sales manager. In 2001, Reed had surgery to repair a brain aneurysm. He and his wife moved back to Regina in 2009, when Reed began working as director of guest and community relations for the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation. He published his autobiography, George Reed: His Life and Times, co-written with John Chaput, in 2011.

Honours and Awards

In 1976, the Saskatchewan Roughriders retired George Reed’s No. 34 — one of only eight numbers the team has retired. Reed was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum and the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 1979, into the Washington State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980, into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1984, and into the CFL’s Gridiron Greats Hall of Fame in 2013. In 1981, Reed received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Regina. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1978 and received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2013.

In 2006, Reed was ranked No. 2 in TSN’s list of the top 50 CFL players of all time, behind Doug Flutie at No. 1. In 2012, Canada Post issued a stamp featuring a picture of Reed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup. In 2014, Reed received a lifetime achievement award from the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum.

In 2017, statues of Reed and former Roughriders quarterback Ron Lancaster were unveiled outside the Roughriders’ new home, Mosaic Stadium in Regina. In 2019, a stretch of road outside the stadium was named in Reed’s honour. Since then, the official address of the franchise has been 1734 George Reed Way.