Lui Passaglia | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Lui Passaglia

Lui Passaglia, football player (born 7 June 1954 in Vancouver, BC). Lui Passaglia is regarded as one of the best kickers in Canadian Football League (CFL) history. He played 25 straight seasons with the BC Lions (1976–2000) and won three Grey Cups (1985, 1994, 2000). He holds both the CFL and professional football record for most points scored (3,991). He is also the CFL’s all-time leader in seasons, games played (408), field goals made (875) and converts made (1,045). He has been inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum, the BC Football Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. His No. 5 has been retired by the Lions, with whom he works as a community relations ambassador.

Childhood and Family

Lui Passaglia is the oldest of two children of Loris and Natalina Passaglia. His brother, Walter, also played in the CFL (1979–1981) as a kicker with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes.  

Both of Passaglia’s parents were Italian immigrants. “(They) taught us to appreciate being in this country (of Canada) and having the opportunities that we do,” he told the Vancouver Sun in 2017. “I think I have learned to appreciate what I have even more.”

As a child, Passaglia attended Our Lady of Sorrows Elementary School in the Grandview neighbourhood of East Vancouver. His first passion was soccer, and he has great memories of attending Team Canada soccer games at nearby Empire Stadium. When Lui was eight, Loris, a construction worker, took Lui to see a BC Lions game. A year later, at age nine, Lui played flag football for the first time at Vancouver’s Adanac Park.

High School and University Football

During his high school years, Passaglia attended Vancouver College and Notre Dame Regional Secondary School. At Notre Dame, he played football as a quarterback, safety, kicker and punter. His team won the BC High School Championship three times (1968, 1970, 1971). In 1971, he was named the best offensive player in the championship game.

Following his high school success, Passaglia declined an offer to play with the University of Hawaii. He instead attended Simon Fraser University, where he played soccer as well as football, as a quarterback, wide receiver and kicker. He was twice named a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) District I All-Star. He graduated in 1976 with a degree in geography.

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CFL Career

Lui Passaglia was selected in the first round, fifth overall, in the Canadian College Draft by the BC Lions. He was drafted as a wide receiver and kicker. In his first CFL game on 22 July 1976, Passaglia caught a 10-yard pass for a touchdown in a 35–8 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. That would be the only touchdown catch for Passaglia in his CFL career. During his rookie season, Passaglia successfully kicked 28 of 49 field goals and had 143 punts for 5,913 yards. In 1977, he was named a West Division All-Star for the first of nine times in his career.

On 10 November 1979, Passaglia set the CFL record for the longest playoff punt (89 yards) in a 37–2 Lions loss to the Calgary Stampeders. In 1983, he set a CFL record for the highest punting average in a single season (50.2 yards per punt). The record stood for 22 years. Passaglia’s 133,826 punting yards all-time is second only to former Blue Bombers punter Bob Cameron.

In 1983, 1984 and 1987, Passaglia led the CFL in total points and field goals. In 1987, he scored a career-high 214 points, setting records for most field goals and points in a single season. He was the first CFL player to score at least 200 points in a season; he did so twice. He also set the record for most consecutive converts made twice in his career. He made a record 246 straight converts from 1976 to 1983, and later reset the record with 560 (since broken by Troy Westwood and Paul McCallum).

In 1988, due to salary caps and cost cutting, Passaglia was released by the BC Lions when he refused to accept a salary cut from $150,000, to $65,000. He tried out for several NFL teams and was signed by the Cleveland Browns; however, he was released by the team after pre-season play. He rejoined the Lions in late August after agreeing to terms and missing the first six games of the season.

Passaglia played his final season in the CFL in 2000 at age 46. He made 40 of 44 field goal attempts. In his last regular season game, against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he was the quarterback for one play, jumping into the endzone from the one-yard line. He thus scored two touchdowns in his CFL career — one in his first game and the other in his last.

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Grey Cup Victories

Passaglia and the Lions made five appearances in the Grey Cup and won the championship three times (1985, 1994, 2000). Passaglia twice won the Dick Suderman Trophy as the top Canadian in the Grey Cup game (1985, 1994). In 1985, he kicked five field goals and had a key 13-yard run on a third down gamble in a 37–24 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In 1994, Passaglia kicked a 38-yard field goal in a dramatic 26–23 victory over the Baltimore Stallions at BC Place.

The 2000 Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium in Calgary was Passaglia’s final game. He kicked a 29-yard field goal with less than two minutes left in a 28–26 victory over the Montreal Alouettes. With an 8–10 record in the regular season, the Lions became the first team to win the Grey Cup with a losing record in the regular season.

Personal Life

From 2001 to 2007, Passaglia worked for the BC Lions as their Director of Community Relations. He continues to be employed by the team part-time as a community relations ambassador. The CFL Alumni Association named him Man of the Year in 2014.

Passaglia was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013; it went into remission in 2015. He has been active in raising awareness of the disease and encouraging people to be screened. He and his wife, Loa, live in Port Coquitlam, BC. They have two daughters, Leah and Loren; as well as twin sons, Christopher (who also played football at SFU as a kicker and receiver) and Colby.

Career Achievements

In addition to his all-time CFL records for most seasons and games played, Passaglia is the CFL all-time leader in points (3,991; also a professional football record), field goals made (875), and converts made (1,045). He was named a CFL All-Star four times (1979, 1983, 1984, 2000) and a West Division All-Star nine times.

Passaglia was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 2001; the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum in 2004; the BC Football Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 2011; and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. His No. 5 was retired by the BC Lions on 4 November 2000. His high school, Notre Dame Regional Secondary School, retired his No. 14 in 2005 — the first number to be retired in the school’s 50-year history. Simon Fraser University inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 1986 and presented him with an honorary Doctor of Laws in 2006.