A pivotal decision

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:29 PM ET

Bob Cameron understands he wouldn't have stuck around 23 glorious years playing his original position, but that didn't ease the disappointment of not realizing his dream of becoming a quarterback in the Canadian Football League.

Fans of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are pretty tough on quarterbacks, so perhaps things turned out for the better when the highly-touted pivot/punter from Acadia University was asked to focus on the latter in 1980.

"My goal was to play quarterback in the CFL, punting was never my goal," Cameron said in a recent interview. "As it evolved, I realized I wasn't going to make it here as a quarterback, so I concentrated on one thing. I said, 'you know what? It wouldn't be bad just to punt this ball.' I worked very hard to hone my skills and do the best that I could."

Cameron is the Bombers the longest serving member, but his journey to make it in the CFL is a story of perseverance.

The man who ended up making No. 6 a fixture with the Blue and Gold actually tried out for eight different teams in North America between 1977 and 1979 before finally making it in Winnipeg to open the 1980 season.

Cameron's first game remains fresh in his mind.

MANY HIGHLIGHTS

"Oh yeah, it was against the Edmonton Eskimos in Edmonton," he recalled. "On my first punt, I hit a 43-yarder out of bounds to the Eskimos bench, which was neat in a way because I was drafted by the Eskimos and they were the first team to cut me on my journey. There were a lot of years of frustration and it was great to finally make it and say I played a game."

There were many highlights to choose from, but one season that stands out for Cameron was 1984.

"We sort of had two Grey Cup games," said Cameron, noting the Blue Bombers hadn't won the Grey Cup since 1962. "In order to make it there, we had to go to B.C. Place in front of 60,000 people and beat them out there. They were heavily favoured in that game."

As Cameron and kicker Trevor Kennerd found out during a late-night visit in Vancouver, Lions fans felt a victory was a sure thing.

"We go to a place called Sneaky Pete's and on the wall there is this poster that says 'Bon Voyage to Edmonton party' so we ask the bouncer what it was all about," said Cameron. "He tells us 'sorry, it's completely sold out. There is a party on Monday night to wish the B.C. Lions good luck in the Grey Cup.' So we take the poster with us to the locker-room and put it up on the wall. We beat them and there was a tremendous weight off our shoulders. We got back to the airport (in Winnipeg) and there were 10,000 people there. It was like a scene from a movie with people patting you on the shoulders."

When it came time to play the Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, there was a familiar face behind centre for the opposition.

"We beat Dieter Brock, our former quarterback," said Cameron, who went on to win three Grey Cups. "That was really a dream come true. We had the parade downtown. The first one was just fantastic. No matter how much money you make, or anything else, you can't buy those memories."

Cameron admits there were a couple of low-lights as well, but it was easy to pick out his least favourite moment.

"This was the ultimate indignity," said Cameron. "If I hadn't been slapped around enough. The game was in Hamilton and I had grown up in Ancaster, just outside of Hamilton. Both of my high school football coaches and my buddies were coming to the game, all my relatives and I had got them tickets. After the pre-game meal, four hours before game-time head coach Ray Jauch tapped me on the shoulder and said 'you're cut, we've got another punter.' It was the absolute worst part of my life right there. I had the world dropped out from under me. I didn't even go to the game."

So what's it like to reflect on a career that spans nearly one-third of the 75 seasons the Blue Bombers have been around?

"When you hit 50-years-old, you reflect on your whole life and what you've done in your life," said Cameron. "I never really looked back on my career when I was still playing. Suddenly, you retire and two years later, you're turning 50. It's a bit of a shock to the system."


Videos

Photos