CFL special teams have been on my mind recently. It is all because of an excellent series that has been running right here on Ninety-Nine Yards.
The focus has been just that though, (the NFL) with the notable exception of an excellent nod to Mike Vanderjagt’s time with the Argonauts.
I am on record saying how much I love special teams. Because of that it seems only natural that with my CFL fan hat on this series got me thinking about some of the great special teams players who have played North of the Border.
A one team legend
Every year the rich tapestry of the league’s history is added to. Special teams have been no exception to that rule of late. I thought it would be fun though to look at some retired greats.
After starting with the BC Lions kicker Lui Passaglia, Winnipeg’s Bob Cameron seems like a natural progression. Cameron, like Passaglia had a phenomenal one club career. He spent 23 years with the Blue Bombers from the 1980 to 2002 seasons.
Those 23 years led to Cameron being held in high regard in Manitoba. In a 2014 Winnipeg Free Press vote fans voted him the all-time favourite kicker to don the Blue Bombers uniform.
He routinely features in all-time Winnipeg teams. Their own site made the bold claim he was, “easily the greatest punter in CFL history, and, if we’re being fair, might be one of the best in all of professional football.”
A Long and winding road
When you spend 23 years in a league you are bound to leave a mark. Not that it looked like Cameron had much of a shot early on in his career.
Starting out in college ball with the Acadia Axemen Cameron had been the team’s quarterback and punter.
Cameron was originally drafted by Edmonton in the 1977 draft. They cut him and he had a try-out with Ottawa Rough Riders the following year. Had he won the punting job in Ottawa he would have been the teams punter and third string quarterback. It wasn’t to be.
In 1979 he was back and trying again. This time appearing at the Winnipeg training camp. He still didn’t catch on and still he was undaunted.
It seems remarkable in hindsight seeing how much he was passed up on. When he got his chance in 1980 however he really made the most of it.
Finally landing in Winnipeg
Winnipeg had found their punter in 1980 and Cameron had found his CFL home for over two decades.
Even that wasn’t a sure thing. According to this article from the Bombers site Cameron seriously thought he might lose his job in 1983.
In some ways Cameron was lucky too. The early 1970s saw an increase in placekicking specialists as roster sizes increased. Those increases meant teams started to add a punting specialist. Cameron was one of the first to benefit.
At the time of his retirement Bob Cameron held the record for consecutive games, dressing for 353 in a row and playing until he was 48 years old! A real testament to perseverance.
Bob Cameron kicked over 3,000 punts during his CFL career. In fact his 3,129 moments of putting boot to ball are only exceeded by Passaglia.
Cameron still holds the CFL all-time most career regular season punting yardage record with 134,301 yards.
During the 1988 season he set the records for most regular-season punts with 188. He also garnered a single-season record 8,214 yards.
In 1989 he booted the ball 175 times for 7,425 yards. Giving him the second most single season attempts and third highest single season yardage totals respectively.
Cameron was named a CFL Western Division All-Star 4 times in 1988, 1989, 1990 & 1993. He was also named a Canadian All-Star four times.
He appeared in six Grey Cups during his 23 year career and took home a championship ring three times in 1984, 1988 and 1990.
For those with an interest these are Bob Cameron’s career punting stats:
Banner image: Bob Cameron (right) at an early 1980’s Blue Bomber training camp. Picture from Bluebombers.com