Ron Stewart – a CFL star remembered
On the Ottawa REDBLACKS site they recently announced that Caleb Evans was close to a franchise record. So far this season, Evans has carried the ball 78 times for 324 yards and 13 touchdowns. Coming off the becnch as the short yardage QB has given Evans the chance to rack up the touchdowns.
The 13 TD’s Evans has scored lead the way in the CFL. And it is here that he stands on the edge of a franchise record. As the REDBLACKS site puts it, “With his 13 rushing touchdowns, Evans currently stands tied for second in single-season rushing scores in Ottawa football history, behind only Ron Stewart (15, 1960)”.
Which leads to two questions. For those confused UK based fans not in the know, how can an Ottawa franchise that is so recent hark back to the 1960s? And, who was Ron Stewart?
Ottawa – a franchise with a split history
The REDBLACKS are the newest franchise in the CFL. They were awarded a franchise in 2008, started football operations in 2013 and played their first season as an expansion club in 2014 finishing with a 2-16 record. However there has been football in Ottawa, on and off, for much longer than this. The Ottawa Football club was founded in 1876. They would later become better known as the Ottawa Rough Riders. Arguably the greatest CFL team to be gone but not forgotten.
Despite a brief hiatus in the 1920’s when they were known as the Senators, the Rough Riders survived from 1876-1996. Ottawa had one of the oldest football franchises in North America up to that point. The Rough Riders won the Grey Cup nine times, last wining it in 1976 & last appearing in the big game in 1981.
Post Rough Rider Football in Ottawa
After the sad demise of this once proud franchise following the 1996 season Ottawa was without a CFL team. That changed in 2002 when the Ottawa Renegades appeared. The Renegades struggled financially and went 23-49 over 4 years before disappearing.
That was the last CFL team in Ottawa until the REDBLACKS were awarded a franchise in 2008. Wikipedia states that “For historical purposes, the CFL classifies the REDBLACKS, Renegades and Rough Riders as one discontinuous franchise.” Which is why Evans is now chasing down a franchise record set 62 years ago.
Ron Stewart – Ottawa Rough Riders great
Stewart graduated from Queen’s University and joined the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1958, playing 13 seasons for the Eastern Riders until his retirement in 1970. Prior to entering the CFL he had been voted Queen’s University’s Most Valuable Player three times.
His rookie season in the pros gave little indication of what was to come as in 1958 he had 3 carries for 1 yard! By his second season production had increased as he carried the ball 82 times for 425 yards and ran in 2 touchdowns.
It was in 1960 that his career really exploded however. That was the season he set the franchise touchdown record that Caleb Evans is chasing down. This season he won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian award. This after 139 carries netted 1,020 yards (at 7.3 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns.
1960 was easily his best season. But he still had plenty to offer. Over a 13 year career, all with the Rough Riders, he had 983 carris covering 5,690 yards and 42 touchdowns. A multi purpose player he also had 202 receptions for 2,727 yards and 23 touchdowns. Alongside 118 punt returns for 657 yards, and 83 kick returns for 1,962 yards.
Stewart was a CFL East All-Star in 1960, 1961 & 1964. He appeared in 4 Grey Cup games, (1960, 1966, 1968 & 1969) winning on 3 occasions and missing out in 1966. He is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Looking back to look forward
One of the great joys of people chasing records is the way it makes us look back too. Just as with Ron Stewart here. The CFL, and the football played were different in 1960. But that doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy looking back to that era and remembering the exploits of someone who had success then.
Stewart holds another record too – this time a league wide record. During his remarkable 1960 season he set a single game mark when rushing for 287 yards. If any back ever approaches that mark, perhaps Stewart will get the spotlight once more.
‘Records were made to be broken’ is a mantra we will all have heard at some point. And it is true. In the now, it will be fun to watch along and see if Caleb Evans gets the chance to set a new franchise record in Ottawa.
Banner Image: Ron Stewart with teh Ottawa Roughriders. Iamge from Pinterest