It is with great sadness and broken hearts that the Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club, alongside its fans and the entire CFL community, mourns the death of one of its greatest players of all time, George Reed.
Reed passed away Sunday, one day before his 84th birthday, after a long and beautiful life that included incredible success both on and off the football field.
He was widely known as one of greatest running backs in Canadian Football League history after an unparalleled 13-year professional football career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Reed retired as the game’s all-time leading rusher shortly before training camp in 1976, with 16,116 rushing yards and 134 career rushing touchdowns (the latter record still stands). On October 24, 1976, the Roughriders ensured no one other than Reed would ever wear #34 when they retired his number.
An unstoppable force, full of grit and determination, Reed registered a CFL-record 11 1,000-plus-yards seasons during his career. He was a nine-time CFL all-star, a 10-time West all-star and played in five consecutive all-star games (1970-74). After rushing for a franchise-record 1,768 yards in 1965, Reed won the Schenley Award (for Most Outstanding Player in the CFL). He was the runner-up for the award in 1968 and 1969.
Of course, Reed was also a Grey Cup Champion, and a key part of bringing home the Club’s first-ever Grey Cup on November 26, 1966, when he rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown.
With his on-field success also came considerable recognition off the field. He was presented with the Tom Pate Memorial Award (for outstanding sportsmanship, a contribution to his team, his community, and to the Players’ Association) in 1976 and the prestigious Order of Canada in 1978. He was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1979, the State of Washington Hall of Fame in 1983, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Plaza of Honour in 1987.
Reed changed the face of the CFL when he helped establish and then went on to serve as president of the CFL Players’ Association for more than a decade.
In 2017, the Roughriders erected a statue of him and teammate Ron Lancaster and in 2019 changed the name of the street along Mosaic Stadium to George Reed Way.
Perhaps the only thing that could match his contributions to the Roughriders and Canadian Football was his passion to give back to the Saskatchewan community. In 1975, Reed established the George Reed Foundation and spent nearly 50 years volunteering and giving back in the areas of education, continuous learning, healthy living as well as with individuals with disabilities.
To continue #34’s remarkable legacy, the Saskatchewan Roughrider Foundation and George Reed Foundation recently joined together to create the George Reed Legacy Fund. This fund will ensure continued support for the causes that mean the most to Reed for years to come: Special Olympics Saskatchewan and Mother Teresa Middle School.
In lieu of flowers, members of Rider Nation and anyone inspired by George Reed and his legacy are able to make a donation in his memory to the George Reed Legacy Fund by visiting riderville.com.
Additional plans to honour Reed’s legacy are to follow in the coming days.
The Reed Family has asked for privacy during this very difficult time of mourning. All media and information requests should be directed to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Statement from George’s daughter, Georgette Reed
“It was my dad’s immense honour to be part of the Saskatchewan community and to call it home for so many years. Sixty years ago, he received an offer to move to Regina to play for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and in accepting that offer it changed our lives for the better. Playing for the Roughriders was one of my dad’s greatest joys and we will never forget the love he and our entire family received from the people here until the very end. I know my dad’s legacy will live on in the hearts of Rider Nation, as well as our own. We will all miss him so very much.”
Statement from President and CEO Craig Reynolds
“George Reed was a giant in life, not only for the Roughriders, but in the Saskatchewan community and across the entire CFL. His strength and tenacity on the field was matched only by his compassion and dedication off of it. George made our province and the CFL a better place and I know I speak on behalf of all of Rider Nation when I say we will miss him deeply. It was an honour to have him in our life.”
Statement from Vice President of Football Operations Jeremy O’Day
“In George Reed, the Roughriders had a legend in its midst, a role model and an example of what it meant to be a true professional. To be able to spend time with George throughout my time in Saskatchewan was a blessing and provided me, as well as our staff, players and coaches a great source of inspiration. There will never be another #34.”