Ottawa Rough Riders

Rick Cassata - Quarterback - 1968-76 - Syracuse

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Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame - Class of 2002

Outstanding high school athletes frequently possess the tools of stardom in more than one sport, and indeed the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame features more than a few multi-sport notables. Even among that crowd, however, certain athletes stand out, including a player widely considered the best three-sport athlete ever produced locally on the high school level -- Rick Cassata.

 

A product of Buffalo's West Side, Cassata first served notice of future greatness at Tonawanda High School. A strong-armed quarterback, Rick attained All-Niagara Frontier League honors as a junior in 1962, and added All-Western New York and All- American citations in 1963.

 

During senior year at Tonawanda, football scouts from Miami University and Notre Dame beckoned (he was the No. 1 prospect for the Irish, even more highly coveted than eventual Heisman winner Terry Hanratty), but Rick stayed close to home by choosing Syracuse University.  With Cassata and Csonka in the backfield, the mid-1960s was a golden gridiron era for the Orangemen, and Bowl appearances capped off each of Rick's last two seasons in college. Although the 1966 Gator Bowl featured a fine performance from Cassata, he saved his best for last. In a memorable 1967 clash in the Hula Bowl before a nationwide audience, he soundly outplayed his counterpart, UCLA quarterback and Heismann winner Gary Beban, and captured the game's MVP award.

 

Rick also captained the Syracuse nine senior year, and faced another fork in the road after graduation, as scouts from the New York Yankees and Washington Senators crowded pro football scouts on his doorstep. Rick opted

 for the Canadian Football League. Cassata flourished as a quarterback in the wide-open CFL, and his stellar 7 season career north of the border included a Grey Cup win with the Ottawa Roughriders in 1973.

 

1973 Grey Cup - Call the 1973 Grey Cup the Backup Bowl.

 

The Ottawa Rough Riders were forced to start Rick Cassata at quarterback when Jerry Keeling couldnít play because of a knee injury. Many didnít think Cassata was deserving of an opportunity to perform on the national stage due to his previous ineffective play.

 

Meanwhile, Edmontonís starting quarterback, Tom Wilkinson, was knocked out of the game near the end of the first quarter by Ottawa defender Wayne Smith. The Eskimos offence fizzled after this, and Cassata and the Riders rallied for their third title in five years.

 

Before the game was four minutes old, Edmontonís Roy Bell took a handoff, ran to the left side and sprinted 38 yards for a touchdown.

 

But the Riders responded with a TD of their own. Rhome Nixon got in the clear behind Edmontonís Billy Cooper and Cassata connected with him on a pass for a 38-yard scoring play.

 

Ever cool under pressure, Cassata combined with rugged running back Jim Evenson and unerring kicker Gerry Organ to clinch a sixth Cup for the Rough Riders. 22-18 at Exhibition Stadium.

 

For information on obtaining this historical CFL Image visit:

http://scottgrant.photoshelter.com/

-- statistics --

 

 

Rick Cassata       Syracuse
    Passing        
Yr Team Att Cmp Yds Pct. TD Int Lg
1968 Ssk 41 9 206 22.0 0 0 40
1969 Wpg 1 0 0 0.0 0 0 0
1971 Ott 181 77 1,100 42.5 7 14 100
1972 Ott 357 179 2,548 50.1 13 22 73
1973 Ott 177 94 1,255 53.1 4 6 52
1974 Ott 210 88 1,254 41.9 4 13 58
1976 Ham 89 46 543 51.7 4 5 37
  BC 169 78 954 46.2 1 7 53
Total 7 1225 571 7,860 46.6 33 67 100

 

    Rushing    
Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
1968 Ssk 16 100 6.3 16 0
1969 Wpg 3 27 9.0 10 0
1971 Ott 65 393 6.0 58 1
1972 Ott 85 442 5.2 43 2
1973 Ott 34 128 3.8 14 1
1974 Ott 35 143 4.1 25 1
1976 Ham 4 0 0.0 0 0
  BC 0 0 0.0 5 0
Total 7 242 1,233 5.1 86 5