O’Leary: Reed’s name perfectly tied to CFL MOP award
As Georgette Reed discussed the CFL naming its Most Outstanding Player award after her father, the late and great George Reed, she channelled some of his own traits.
Georgette was on hand in Niagara Falls, Ont. at the CFL Awards last week to see Toronto Argonauts’ quarterback Chad Kelly become the first-ever recipient of the newly-named George Reed Most Outstanding Player Award. After George’s passing on Oct. 1 this year, the CFL moved quickly to ensure one of its most legendary players’ name will live on in CFL history forever.
“I was thunderstruck,” Georgette said of when CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie had called her with the news. Ambrosie was at George’s celebration of life and saw the outpouring of love and support that Regina, the province of Saskatchewan and the country at large had for George.
“He said that he wanted to wait until he had the approval of all the presidents in the league and it was unanimous and that they wanted to re-name the award in my dad’s honour.”
Over his 13-year career with the Roughriders, George became the CFL’s all-time leading rusher, breaking the 16,000-yard mark. He led the Riders to their second-ever Grey Cup win in 1966 and was the game’s MVP. He settled in Regina and became a fixture of the community there, long after his playing days had come to an end.
His post-football days saw him work with countless local charities. He became engrained in the fabric of football in Saskatchewan and Canada, being named a member of the Order of Canada in 1978. In 1979 he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. At the end of George Reed Way, leading up to Mosaic Stadium in Regina, a statue of him welcomes fans as they make their way to games.
When George passed on Oct. 1, he was just a day shy of his 84th birthday.
Georgette, an Olympian for Canada in the shot put in the 1992 Games and now the athletic director at Capilano University in North Vancouver, echoes the characteristics she describes in her father.
“Dad would have been super humble and just been like, ‘OK, you know, thanks,'” she said. “He was never one of those ones that was really boastful or prideful but he would have been really proud knowing that he’s made that kind of an impact. He’s still making a difference and he will make a difference for eternity, for as long as this award is given out.
“Knowing that he’ll be on people’s lips and people’s minds and hearts…every time you hear his name, it reminds (people) of the good old days of Ronnie (Lancaster) and George and Saskatchewan and old CFL. You’ll pull out all of the Hall of Fame names, whether that’s like Angelo Mosca, or Bill Baker or Tim Roth or whoever. It’s something that’s just so special.”
Georgette and the Reed family have been without George for almost two months now. There’s a bittersweetness to that time, balancing the grief that comes with loss and seeing the impact that he has had and will continue to have as things get named after him and as people ensure that his name lives on.
“For me, it was hard because I lost my buddy. He was the guy that I had vanilla milkshakes and hung out with. We would watch Hallmark movies at three o’clock in the morning,” Georgette laughed.
“I’m so proud of the man that he was. Nobody’s perfect, but man, he tried every day to do the very best that he could. Every day he just strove to be a little bit better, a little bit better, no matter what is thrown at him.
“He never complained. He would just put his head down and keep moving and if that’s some kind of an example that I can follow and other people can follow and try to make a difference, then it’s amazing. It’s fantastic.”
While many people may have felt that Reed’s name going on the MOP trophy was an easy conclusion, Georgette said it was never something that she’d thought about or hoped for. Her father was never about the recognition and awards.
“It was more about when he would be (shopping) and somebody would come up to him and give him a pat on the back and just tell him how watching him changed their lives, or how they enjoyed football or how they were all about the Riders because of because of my dad. Those are the things that he was most proud of,” she said.
“To know that now an award that exemplifies the best-of-the-best in Canadian football for that year and his name is on that trophy every year is phenomenal.”
There were countless great memories that Georgette had with her father. She fondly looked back at the May long weekend of this year as one of them. George had struggled with his mobility, but the family was able to set up the barbecue in a way to let him man the grill in the backyard.
“He was able to barbecue steaks for the first time in seven years or so,” she said. “And he made the most incredible meal ever. The steaks were phenomenal. Just little things like that. He was still striving to just keep doing the very best that he could no matter what challenges that he faced.”