It only took 52 years of retirement and four years of promises, but the greatest Canadian quarterback in football history was finally honored in his hometown.
On Saturday, the City of Hamilton officially unveiled the Russ Jackson Soccer Field at William Connell Park on Central Mountain, a tribute to the city’s most iconic soccer son.
âIt’s great to be honored in this way, especially here in Hamilton,â Jackson told friends, family and dignitaries on the podium.
“My wife and I have lived and worked here and went to school here, and coming back and being honored like that is really special.”
Jackson, now 85, began his illustrious playing career at Westdale High School, before attending McMaster University in his hometown. There, he posted flashy numbers en route to being selected sixth overall in the 1958 CFL Draft by the Ottawa Rough Riders. In front of those gathered, the legendary quarterback graced the three, first wearing a Westdale Warriors jacket, before removing it to reveal a Marauders sweatshirt and underneath it the very Rough Riders jersey that ‘he wore in his last CFL game.
In 12 professional seasons, Jackson became the best Canadian-born player the league has ever seen, with throws of 24,593 yards, 185 touchdowns and 124 interceptions. More than just a pocket passer, he added 5,045 rushing yards and 54 touchdowns. He remains the only Canadian quarterback to ever throw more than 10,000 yards.
Six times in the East Division and three times on the CFL All-Star Team, Jackson was named the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian four times in his career, but his dominance was largely unrelated to his passport. . He is one of three local players to win the league’s MVP award and the only one to have done so more than once, winning the CFL’s top honor three times.
Jackson has won the Gray Cup in the Nation’s Capital three times, but his best moment came in his final season in 1969. After winning his last MOP award, Jackson broke a Gray Cup record of four touchdowns against the Saskatchewan in the 57th iteration of the title game. and retired as the Gray Cup MVP. That year, he won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete.
In the years since his retirement as a player, Jackson’s iconic status among Canadian football fans has only grown and he has been honored accordingly. He became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1970 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1973, before joining the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1975. In 2012, he even received an award. star on Canadian Walk of Fame in Toronto. , but the only distinction missing was some form of recognition in the city where he grew up playing football.
A promise to rectify this omission was first made in 2017, but has been hampered by both real and imagined delays since. Saturday marked the culmination of this long process and perhaps in penance, Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger did not wear the black and gold of his beloved Ticates, but instead was adorned with the proud “R” former Rough Riders.
With Jackson and his wife Lois flanked by Eisenberger and CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie, the ribbon has finally been cut and Jackson has high hopes for what the park can become.
“I just want it to be a place where children have the opportunity to play, to grow up, to be able to come here, play football and enjoy life,” he said. “That’s the whole story.”
This is exactly what the greatest of all time did once on a Hamilton field and now no one will ever forget it.