TORONTO — The Canadian Football League is mourning the loss of Eagle Keys.
Keys, a Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee who played in the 1954 Grey Cup on a broken leg, passed away at the age of 89.
Keys won two Grey Cups as a player, with Montreal and Edmonton, and also coached the Saskatchewan Roughriders to their first CFL title in 1966.
“Eagle Keys is a legend in the CFL and will always hold a special place in the hearts of Rider fans,” said Riders president and CEO Jim Hopson in a release Thursday.
“While he will always be thought of as one of the greatest coaches in CFL history, more importantly he was a tremendous person. Eagle was kind enough to join the Riders in 2006 as the team celebrated the 40th anniversary of our first Grey Cup championship. He will be missed by our entire organization.”
Keys established his legendary status by playing the final game of his six-year CFL career with a broken bone in his knee. He helped his Edmonton Eskimos upset the heavily favoured Montreal Alouettes 26-25 in the 42nd Grey Cup at Varsity Stadium in Toronto.
His second Grey Cup victory as a player came after he won as a member of the 1949 Alouttes as they triumphed 28-15 over the Calgary Stampeders, also in Toronto.
He also appeared in the 1952 Grey Cup, only to see his Eskimos club lose to the host Toronto Argonauts on the same Varsity Stadium field on which he played his other two.
Keys played centre and linebacker for five years with Montreal (1949-51) and with the Eskimos (1952-54), being named to three CFL all-star teams.
He became a coach after retiring as a player, starting as an assistant in Edmonton in 1955. He became the Eskimos’ head coach in 1959, a job he held until 1963.
He then moved to Saskatchewan (1965-70), where he guided the Roughriders to their historic first Grey Cup win. He also was the head coach of the B.C. Lions (1971-75) having replaced Jackie Parker.
Lions general manager Bob Ackles fired Keys six games into the 1975 season and replaced him with a future hall of fame coach, Cal Murphy.
Keys, who was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as a builder in 1990, spent his later life in the Vancouver area.
Before moving to Canada, Keys was an outstanding centre and linebacker for the University of Western Kentucky Hilltopper football team in 1942 and, after serving in the Marine Corps in the Second World War, 1946 and 1947.
He also lettered in baseball as a pitcher and outfielder in three straight post-war years (1946-48). He was an All-Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection in football as a senior.
In 1946, his baseball team went a perfect 9-0, outscoring the opponents by an average of five runs a game. His collegiate sporting achievements earned him entry into the Western Kentucky University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994.
With files from the Canadian Press