Toogood to be true

CHAD SCARSBROOK -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

Bob Toogood almost died on the Winnipeg Stadium field and it was the most memorable moment of his football career.

"We were playing Calgary and I intercepted a ball and ran it in for a touchdown," the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker recalled recently. "I was very excited and then everybody started jumping on me and I actually couldn't breathe. They were all so excited. I thought 'I'm gonna die here.' I couldn't say anything because I couldn't breathe.

"I almost died right there in the end zone."

Toogood played seven seasons for his hometown Blue and Gold from 1974-80. The Bombers went 57-53 during his tenure in the front seven and made it as far as the Western Final in 1980 (they lost 34-24 to Edmonton). It was the closest Toogood would get to the Grey Cup. Four years after he retired, the Bombers would finally win it all for the first time since 1962.

"I was fortunate because I retired on my own, they didn't cut me," said Toogood, now 58. "It was just enough for me. When they went to the Grey Cup you kind of think 'Maybe I should have held on for a few more years.' But at the end of the day I think I played enough. It takes a toll on your body."

Toogood played university ball for the Manitoba Bisons and was a part of the back-to-back Vanier Cup champions in 1969-70. Only three teams in CIS history have accomplished that feat.

"The only time we're in contact is when someone threatens to make it three in a row. We get together and try to put curses on them," Toogood said with a chuckle.

He signed on to play with the Bombers after university and said it was an unbelievable feeling to play at home.

"That's probably the most exciting thing," said Toogood. "My mom and dad, friends and family were able to come to all the games. I remember listening to the radio and hearing the late '50s and '60s championship runs. It was pretty exciting to get used to being a Bomber."

The fans played an integral part too. When he looks back on his career, the first thing that comes to mind for Toogood is the rabid fan base.

"I remember coming into the stadium in the late '70s and hearing Another One Bites The Dust and even though we never got to a Grey Cup it was amazing to see how enthusiastic the fans were. I have great memories of it."

He'll also treasure his memories of the Blue and Gold locker-room.

"You do miss it," he said. "Anybody who's been in a locker-room understands that part you miss. The characters you run into. You know each other well and people have a hard time (when it's over). They're still looking for that high and the action of the game."

One of his favourites to suit up with was the veteran Bombers centre.

"John Bonk had such a great attitude and so much enthusiasm about the game," said Toogood. "He was always ready to play and as a centre, didn't get a lot of recognition. He was pretty fearless about playing."

For the last 15 years, Toogood has been employed by Chum Radio working with retail clients to sell radio airtime. The former phys. ed teacher has been married to wife Jeannie for 30 years ("And still enjoying it") and he has four daughters: Jayne, 23, Jennifer, 21 and Julianne, 19. Jennifer and Julianne are both members of the University of Manitoba swim team.

When he's not working, Toogood spends time with his wife playing golf and cycling. He also plays old-timers hockey with several old Bisons pals. He takes part in the Subway Senior Bowl for Grade 12 students every year and is the past president of the Blue Bombers Alumni Association.

"Through the alumni we still meet (with old players)," said Toogood. "I think it's important to keep it going and the Bombers have been great to the alumni keeping us involved."

Toogood is working with the Grey Cup committee to organize a legends breakfast the Friday before the big game. One member from every CFL team across the league is scheduled to attend.


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