Hamilton Tiger Cats

Dave Fleming - Running Back - 1965-74 - Pittsburgh


Retro Profile - Brian Snelgrove - CFL.ca - 05-08-2010

The Toronto Argonauts had the Hamilton Tiger-Cats pinned on their own two-yard line when Joe Zuger dropped back in the pocket. To his left he saw Dave Fleming swing out of the backfield and scamper down the sidelines. He let the ball fly. Fleming stretched, made the catch, tucked the ball under his arm and took off. The Tiger-Cat running back split a pair of Argonaut defenders and 108 yards later stood, untouched, in the end zone.

The date was September 6, 1971 and Zuger and Fleming had just hooked up to set a record for the longest pass and run play in franchise history. Thirty-nine years later, the record still remains.

“It was a little swing pass,” Fleming recalls of the historic play. “I thought to myself, if I can beat these two guys nobody is going to catch me. Jim Tomlin finally caught up with me about five yards deep in the Argo end zone.”

Fleming spent 10 years in the Tiger-Cat backfield (1965-74) and was one of the most reliable, sure-handed and underrated ball carriers in club history. He spent two years with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL (1963-64) prior to joining Hamilton in 1965.

“Ralph Sazio said he would give me $4,000 more than the New York Jets had offered and that I would start right away,” Fleming says. “I didn’t know anything about the CFL but said ‘I’m on my way.’”

The Pittsburgh native had a stellar career with the Tiger-Cats and ranks sixth on the all-time career rushing list with 3,398 yards. He is fourth in both career carries with 744 and rushing touchdowns with 28. He was an East Division all-star in 1970.

Dave Fleming       Pittsburgh      
  Rushing           Receiving    
Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD C Yds Avg Lg TD
1965 Ham 17 78 4.6 11 0 0 0 0.0 0 0
1966 Ham 19 81 4.3 31 0 4 77 19.3 25 0
1967 Ham 59 303 5.1 47 2 18 311 17.3 44 1
1968 Ham 108 599 5.5 45 5 39 768 19.7 83 7
1969 Ham 128 641 5.0 38 4 26 244 9.4 24 2
1970 Ham 138 614 4.4 33 5 56 692 12.4 62 5
1971 Ham 88 287 3.3 26 1 24 400 16.7 108 2
1972 Ham 81 330 4.1 20 4 13 310 23.8 58 2
1973 Ham 45 218 4.8 20 2 23 277 12.0 24 2
1974 Ham 61 247 4.0 35 5 30 545 18.2 51 0
Total 10 744 3,398 4.6 47 28 233 3,624 15.6 108 21

Fleming also scored Hamilton’s only touchdown in their 13-10 Grey Cup win over Saskatchewan in 1972. He was on the receiving end of a 16 yard scoring strike from Chuck Ealey in the first quarter.

“Saskatchewan wasn’t noted for their speed,” he says. “They were a big powerful team but we won because of our speed. We had a bunch of studs on defence as well. Guys like Barrow, Mosca, George Wells and others. We were scared of their ball control with big guys like (George) Reed but we never thought we would lose to them.”

“I was doing a lot of blocking for Dave Buchanan,” he adds. “They put me in the slot because I could catch passes as well as run.”

What really sticks out for Fleming during that Grey Cup season were the Eastern Finals against Ottawa. “We went up there for the first game and it was really cold, we got beat pretty good,” he says.

“But we came back to Hamilton, there was a big pep rally before the game and we went out and beat them. We knew we were a better team.” The Tiger-Cats won the two-game total point final by a score of 30-27.

Following his football career Fleming returned to Pittsburgh in 1975. He traded in the pigskin for a set of weights and embarked on an equally successful weightlifting career.

Over the years he has set a number of U.S. records for the bench press in his age group. He holds the current American record for 55-66 year olds at 360 pounds. Fleming also joined the coaching ranks from 1978-82 and led the semi-professional Pittsburgh Colts to national titles in 1978 and ‘79.

As for his time with the Tiger-Cats, the 66-year-old married father of two says, “The fans in Hamilton were crazy. They were great, great fans, right from the steel mills. They backed us all the way. I wish them nothing but good luck this year.”

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