Ackles remembered

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

The CFL lost one of its biggest supporters yesterday, and the effects are being felt in every locker-room, front office and practice field.

Bob Ackles, the president and CEO of the B.C. Lions, died suddenly of a heart attack yesterday in Vancouver. He was 69.

Ackles spent more than 50 years in football, starting as a water boy for the Lions in 1953 and working his way up to become general manager of the 1985 Grey Cup-winning team.

He spent the following 16 years in the NFL and XFL in various capacities before returning to the Lions in 2002 and rebuilding that team into a perennial Grey Cup contender, winning another championship in 2006.

When Ackles re-joined the Lions, he rebuilt the organization from top to bottom, starting with hiring Wally Buono to be head coach and Dave Dickenson to be the quarterback in 2003.

Dickenson, now with the Stampeders, spent the past five seasons with the Lions where Ackles was as a great friend.

"He got me back into the CFL," said Dickenson, choking back tears. "He had a lot to do with that organization, and I feel part of it.

"It's tough because death is hard. I know him personally and for what he's done for me, it's really tough. I hope everybody remembers the good things. He had the CFL in his blood. Nobody ever says a bad word about him. He had such great success everywhere he went."

Ackles connections to the Stamps runs deeper. Bob's son Scott is now president of the Stampeders, which made Bob extremely proud. Bob wrote glowingly of his son's career in his memoir released last year called The Water Boy.

In that book, Ackles detailed his life as equipment manager for the Lions up to being vice-president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys under coach Jimmy Johnson.

Ackles was one of the staunch defenders of the CFL and warned in his book about how an NFL invasion to Toronto could spell the end of this league.

"As much as the CFL has meant to Bob, he has meant so much more to us," CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said. "His professionalism was exceeded only by his passion for our game and its important place in our country -- passion that has been on display for all to see."

Stampeders receiver Ryan Thelwell, who spent six seasons with the Lions, said he will remember Ackles as genuine and accommodating.

"For a small guy, he was a big man," Thelwell said. "He's an awesome football guy but even a better person.

"He was the type of guy you could go into his office and sit and talk with him. Anything you wanted to know, he would tell you. It's a sad day for the (Lions) organization, and my heart goes out to Kay and his family."

Ackles is survived by wife Kay and sons Steve (Sherri) and Scott (Teresa) and five grandchildren.

He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA

"I look back on my life and my career and feel like the luckiest man in the world. Few people get to spend their days doing something they love with those they love."

-- Bob Ackles (1938-2008)


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