Zuger was the MVP of the 1967 Grey Cup Game. A game in which he ran for a touchdown, passed for another and added three singles on punting plays.
As a Ti-Cat quarterback his career saw him throw for 12,676 passing yards, and 76 touchdown passes including a 108 yard TD pass. The latter remains a franchise record.
But that is not what this is all about. This is about a little bit of CFL history. It is clear already that Zuger was far from an ‘average Joe’. Adding to that is the fact that he holds the CFL record for most TD passes in a game. A whopping 8 majors thrown. A feat he managed in his first professional start!
An Incredible Game
There have to be nerves when you get ready to start your first professional game. Imagine how settling it is for a rookie QB then to complete their first pass. Even more so to throw a touchdown. But imagine going on to throw eight TD’s in your first start. It’s quite something.
That is exactly what Joe Zuger did on October the 15th, 1962 as a rookie signal caller for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Zuger threw for 475 yards and those remarkable eight touchdowns, half of which went to Garney Henley establishing a club record that has since been tied but never broken.
Joe Zuger – an 8 TD catalyst for the tabbies season
The game itself was something of an outlier as Hamilton went into it with a 5-4-1 record. They had not scored more than 31 points in a game up to this point in the season, and indeed the week prior had lost 10-9 to the Toronto Argonauts.
If a coach brings in a young QB to shake things up they no doubt hope they’ll prove a catalyst for the O, but this must have been a surprise to all involved.
The Ti-Cats went on to set a 9-4-1 record before beating the Montreal Alouettes by a 2 game aggregate of 58-38 to make the 1962 Grey Cup. Joe had an impact on that game too but it was not to be as the Bud Grant led Winnipeg Blue Bombers won the famously suspended ‘Fog Bowl’ 28-27.
Not Just a one game wonder
Joe Zuger may not have reached the heights of an eight TD game again (who has?), but he was far from a one game wonder.
Despite sharing QB duties, and playing as a DB, he still amassed 12,676 yards 814 completions and 76 touchdowns in his time in Hamilton.
Zuger also completed the longest pass in Ti-Cat history when he hit Dave Fleming for a 108 yard touchdown in 1971.
Zuger had a pretty good rookie season, but when Faloney came back in 1963, Joe moved over to being a full-time defensive back. He had actually had 4 interceptions in his rookie season, and added 5 more in 1963.
Injuries struck and Zuger managed just 8 games in 1964. But in 1965 Hamilton traded Faloney to Montreal, and Zuger moved back to QB. He shared the QB duties with Cosentino in 1965 and 1966, before taking over as the sole starter in 1967.
Joe could punt too
As we have seen Joe Zuger was a versatile player. 8 interceptions in his first two years in the league at DB certainly back that up. He also stood in as a Linebacker when needed and truly excelled in another field – punting the ball.
For the Ti-Cats in the Sixties and early Seventies Zuger was a weapon with the ball at his foot. As the career stats below show on three occasions he averaged over 48 yards a punt.
When you have a big leg and are playing on the long CFL field this is a wonderful thing for the team to have. Further, you might just pick up the odd Rouge along the way too.
8 TD’s is still a monster number
Football was a very different game in the 1960’s. While the CFL has long been a passing league there can be no denying that offensive game-plans have opened up hugely in the last sixty years.
So that makes the 8 TD performance in 1962 all the more remarkable. That said, it would still be a remarkable achievement were anybody to match it today.
Consider this – in the NFL Sid Luckman was the first to throw 7 TD’s in a game in 1943. A feat only replicated on seven occasions in the century long history of the league. The most recent being by Drew Brees in 2015.
Joe Zuger is no average Joe. And this record sees him stand alone. Eight touchdowns passing in a game has been achieved once in the combined history of the CFL and NFL.
The only question for me, is should this far from ‘average Joe’ be in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame?
Banner Image – Zuger (#9) helps lift the Grey Cup. Image from thespec.com
If you are a fan of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, or want to know more about their history check out these articles too: Their first Grey Cup, The 15+ Club, Angelo Mosca, Paul Osbaldiston, and Grover Covington – sack machine.