Death of a winner

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

Bill Stevenson, the Edmonton Eskimo who tied the record for playing on the most Grey Cup winning teams back in 1987, has died.

Seven times in his career between 1937 and 1950 Jack Wedley played on Grey Cup winners to set the record. But Stevenson, who played on the five-in-a-row Eskimo dynasty team between 1978-82, made it seven himself in '87.

Stevenson died yesterday at the Misericordia Hospital at age 56.

Cause of death was not revealed by the coroner's office.

"He fell down the stairs - that's what we were told," said his old quarterback, Tom Wilkinson. "He went outside to have a cigarette at his mother's home and fell down the stairs."

RETIRED IN '88

Stevenson called it quits in 1988.

He had a 14-year career which began with a Grey Cup in 1975 when GM Norm Kimball obtained the Edmonton native from the Memphis Southmen a few days before the World Football League folded.

He was an original member of the Alberta Crude defensive line who made the transition to offensive line, where he'd play most of his career.

"We made the Grey Cup 10 times when I played and won seven of them," he said when he retired.

"I know guys who played 10 or 12 years in the league and never got to the Grey Cup game."

Selected No. 24 in the Eskimos all-time Top 40 in a special 40th anniversary poll, Stevenson was a three-time West Division All-Star (1978, 1979, 1981) and a two-time CFL All-Pro (1979, 1981).

Stevenson attended Jasper Place High School where he played football and basketball under former Eskimo great, Johnny Bright.

He played his college ball at Drake University, where Bright was named the Athlete of the Century.

Stevenson was drafted by the NFL's Miami Dolphins in 1974 before joining Memphis in the World League for the 1974 and 1975 seasons.

"He was a hell of a football player and a really good guy," said Wilkinson.

"He was a very giving person and loved to have fun. He always had a grin on his face and enjoyed life. He was fun to be around.

"In his first year he played defensive line and he was a good defensive lineman. Once he got on the offensive line, that's where he was going to stay because nobody was going to replace him."

Kicker Dave Cutler said there are just so many Bill Stevenson stories.

"He was one of the best athletes I was ever around. He was amazing. I'm just sick. I really am. He was just such a good guy."

One of the stories Cutler tells involved a game late in the season against Calgary.

"One of their guys cheap-shotted Wilkie. The Stampeders were out of the playoffs going nowhere and one of their guys did that. On the next play Stevenson found the cheap shot artist and did what he called 'Dropping The Trees' on him. The guy looked like he'd broken both of his clavicles.

"Billy walked right into their defensive huddle and told them not to even think about doing anything like that again.

"Most offensive linemen are pretty passive. But there was a linebacker inside that big body. And what an amazing athlete.

"I remember in his first year when he played defence, he striped the quarterback of the ball, picked it up and was taking it to the endzone.

"The only guy who could catch him was Larry Highbaugh. Billy gave him the ball to take for the touchdown. But he'd have made it there himself. Nobody else was catching him.

'ALL CUT UP'

"We switched him to offence, there was no such thing as a pulling tackle, only pulling guards. Billy was a pulling tackle.

"I remember when he rolled his van just before the playoffs. He had to play the game with kind of a goalie mask on, he had so many cuts and bruises. He was all cut up.

"If you remember, nothing was sacred on that team. All that time we called him horseshoe face.

"Billy wasn't going to miss a game just because he totalled his van.

"I loved him. I absolutely loved him."


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