Willie Fleming - Running Back - 1959-67 - University of Iowa
Willie Fleming joined the Lions out of the University of Iowa in 1959. Fleming had grown up in Detroit, Michigan and was an outstanding athlete with great speed. It was this speed that was ideally suited for the Canadian Football League. Fleming joined the Lions who were a relatively new franchise joining the league in 1954. By his second season he was already a dominating figure on the Canadian Football landscape becoming the first B.C. Lions to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing with 1,051 yards on 125 carries for an astounding 8.4 yard average.
In 1961 Joe Kapp joined the Lions and the team turned a corner. By 1963 the club was dominating the Western Division finishing with a 12-4 record tops in the Conference. Kapp and Fleming led the offence. Fleming had his
est season in pro football 1,234 yards rushing on 127 carries for an incredible 9.7 yard average. Stopping Fleming was definitely the goal of the Hamilton Tiger Cats as they came into the Grey Cup being hosted by B.C. at Empire Stadium. The Tiger Cats were known for their dominant defence led by Notre Dame grad Angelo Mosca. Mosca and Fleming would definitely factor into one of the most controversial plays in Grey Cup history. Fleming carried the ball along the sidelines and out of bounds the referee blew his whistle and at the same time Angelo Mosca came over top landing on Fleming and injuring. B.C.'s star running back was forced to leave the game on the "dirty" play by Mosca. The tactic worked as Hamilton went on to a 21-10 victory. The 36,545 Lions fans at Empire Stadium and thousands at home were outraged but eager to return the payback in 1964.
The Lions would return to the Grey Cup in 1964 and win the big game in Toronto 34-24 over Hamilton for some payback. It was the franchises first Grey Cup and a culmination of hard work for Fleming, Kapp and the whole team, Fleming did have a touchdown in the game. Willie would play 2 more seasons in B.C. and continue to have great success including a 109 yard touchdown run on October 17, 1964 versus Edmonton. He would retire following the 1966 season with 6,125 career rushing yards, 37 touchdowns and an incredible 7.1 yards per carry career average. He was a Western Division All-Star on 3 occasions and a CFL All-Star in 1963. A true gentleman and outstanding athlete Fleming was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1982.
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