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Chuck Ealey -Hamilton Tiger Cats-Quarterback 1972-74

-courtesy - In Their Words - By Ron Musselman - The Toledo Blade - July 17,2005

 

Chuck Ealey is a folk hero, both in his hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio, and in his second home of Toledo.

He's also a proven winner.

Ealey's high school team went 30-0 in his three years on the varsity, and he helped lead it to the Class A state poll championship as a senior in 1967.  Bo Schembechler, then the head coach at Miami (Ohio), offered Ealey a partial scholarship to be the team's third quarterback and a defensive back. Ohio also talked to him once, but that was it.

Only Toledo and Dayton showed strong interest in Ealey.

Although UT's coaching staff never saw Ealey play football, Rockets coach Frank Lauterbur knew all about Ealey's athletic exploits and he sent assistant Dick Walker to Portsmouth to watch Ealey play basketball.

Walker raved about Ealey, and Lauterbur, seeking a replacement for John Schneider, offered Ealey a football scholarship.

Ealey led the Rockets to 35 consecutive wins during a three-year span from 1969-71, an NCAA record that still stands; three Tangerine Bowl victories and three Top 20 rankings.

He was named Mid-American Conference Back of the Year three times, was a two-time MVP of the Tangerine Bowl and finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1971 on his way to rewriting the MAC record book for passing and total offense.

As a college senior, Ealey won first-team All-American honors from the Football News, second- team recognition from United Press International and third team from the Associated Press.

Even so, he was bypassed in the 1972 NFL draft, which included 17 rounds and 442 college players.

 

Ealey signed with Hamilton of the Canadian Football League. He took over as the team's starting quarterback after a month. He was named rookie of the year while leading the Tiger-Cats to a 13-10 victory over Saskatchewan in the Grey Cup, where he was named MVP after passing for 291 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 63 yards. He also played for Winnipeg and Toronto, where a collapsed lung ended Ealey's seven-year CFL career in 1976.

 

"I was disappointed that I didn't have a chance to play in the NFL. But at the time, the way the world was working, the way the U.S. was working, the way the quarterback situation was working, there were only one or two black quarterbacks then. Most of them were drafted as defensive backs or wide receivers. I didn't want to do that. I sent a note to NFL teams letting everybody know that I wanted to at least have a chance to play quarterback."

"I didn't start the first couple of games of my CFL career. I actually took over as the starter in the third or fourth game of the season and we lost the first one in Edmonton. Then, we won something like 11 straight and won the Grey Cup, which is like winning the Super Bowl in the States."

 

Ealey, now 55, is a financial advisor for The Investors Group in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga. He lives in nearby Brampton with his wife. They have three children and three grandchildren. Ealey's son,
Damon, played football for UT and lettered in 1995. Ealey, whose No. 16 jersey has been retired at Toledo, is a member of the UT and MAC halls of fame, but surprisingly, he is not in the College Football Hall of Fame.

 

"THINGS ARE GOING great for me," Ealey said. "I'm enjoying life. Right now, a couple of guys from Toledo are looking at doing a documentary on me. I have done a couple of film clips for the project, but it's not done yet. Still, it has allowed me to do some reminiscing about my football career, and our great 35-0 teams at Toledo.

"When you go through something like that, you're just kind of just playing the game. You're going day by day and you don't really think about the streak, or about losing. You're thinking about the next game."

"EVEN AFTER MY first season at Toledo, people didn't even give our winning streak much thought. Then it started building and people started saying, 'Oh, now it's at two years.' The next thing you know, it's three years later, and by then it had become a very big deal.

"People were sitting in the aisles at our stadium to watch games. It was a great time in my life, something I'll never forget. We weren't Ohio State or Oklahoma, but we felt we could compete with just about anybody."

"Ken Dorsey of Miami [Fla.] had a chance to tie my record of 35 consecutive games started and won by a quarterback in the [2003] Fiesta Bowl [against Ohio State], but he didn't get it. I was very happy about that. It wasn't so much about me, but my teammates. A lot of people took a lot of pride in the streak and that 35-0 record. Even though it was a quarterback record, it was still a record we could hold onto in Toledo."

"I STARTED MY junior and senior years in high school, and I played on the team my sophomore year. I didn't think it was that unusual to go 30-0, but I found out that it was pretty special when I got to the University of Toledo and started talking to all my teammates there."

 

From A Passing Game - By Frank Cosentino - Blizzard Publishin Inc. - 1995 - Pg.60

 

The 1972 Grey Cup Game was played before 33,953 spectators and came down to the last play of the game, a 34-yard field goal kicked by 19-year-old Ian Sunter. It was only his third appearance in the game. He kicked an extra point and two field goals and earned the Canadian Player of the Game Award. The Game's most valuable player  was selected as Chuck Ealey.

 

It was a glowing finish to an exceptional football year in Hamilton. With the addition of AstroTurf and a new east side stand, which converted shabby Civic Stadium into immaculate Ivor Wynne Stadium, the city was awarded the Grey Cup game, put on an amazingly successful show. The Cats ran up a 10 game winning streak. won the Schenley with Henley, and the Rookie award with Ealey and won two player awards in the final game. All that and the Grey Cup, too. It will be a hard act to follow.

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