It is with great sadness that legendary Saskatchewan Roughriders running back George Robert Reed died on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. Reed died just one day before he would celebrate his 84th birthday.
Reed is considered to be one of the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) greatest players of all time.
Born in Vicksburg, MS, Reed began his career at the college level and played in the Pac-8 Conference (now Pac-12) for Washington State. After a successful college football career, Reed signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders where he would play 203 games over 13 years from 1963 until 1975.
When he retired, Reed held onto impressive career records including 16,116 rushing yards and the still-unsurpassed record of 134 career rushing touchdowns. Reed was also a nine-time CFL all-star, a 10-time Western Conference all-star, and he played in five consecutive all-star games between 1970-1974.
In 1966, he helped the Roughriders win the club’s first Grey Cup after defeating the Ottawa Rough Riders 29-14 at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium.
Further to this, Reed was voted the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player for 1965.
Reed then went on to help change the face of the CFL after co-founding and later serving as president of the CFL Player’s Association (CFLPA) for over a decade. The goal of the CFLPA is to establish fair working conditions for players in the league.
“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,” said Reed’s daughter Georgette in an official statement.
“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,” she said.
Reed was known widely as one of the greatest running backs in CFL history, along with names such as Mike Pringle and Johnny Bright. In Nov. 2006, Reed was voted one of the CFL’s top 50 players and ranked second, according to The Sports Network (TSN).
To honour his outstanding career, the Roughriders Football Club declared that no other player would wear #34 on the field, and his number was retired following that statement. This made Reed's number 34 one of only eight numbers retired by the club.
“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,” said vice president of football operations Jeremy O’Day.
In 1976 he won the Tom Pate Memorial Trophy for his involvement on and off the field. The trophy is earned by an athlete demonstrating outstanding sportsmanship, contributing significantly to their team, and making a noteworthy contribution to their community.
Earlier in 1976, Reed established the George Reed Foundation. The goal of the foundation was to give back to the community and focused on education, continuous learning, healthy living, and assisting individuals with disabilities.
In recognition of Reed’s contributions, he was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada on July 4, 1978. Canada’s highest honour was awarded in recognition of his noteworthy career as an athlete, for his work with individuals living with a disability, and in recognition of his establishment of the George Reed Foundation for the Handicapped in Regina, Sask.
As a continuation of his remarkable legacy, the Saskatchewan Roughrider Foundation has partnered with the George Reed Foundation to establish the George Reed Legacy Fund. The fund will support Special Olympics Saskatchewan and the Mother Teresa Middle School, both of which were deeply and personally meaningful to Reed.
Anyone wishing to honour Reed is asked to donate to the George Reed Legacy Fund in lieu of flowers or other measures. To make a donation, visit Riderville.com.
“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,” said Roughrider’s president Craig Reynolds.
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