Edmonton Eskimos

Bruce Lemmerman - Quarterback - 1971-78 - Cal State Northridge


Where Are They Now: Bruce Lemmerman - L.A.Times - Steve Henson - 30-06-1990

He's sitting behind a desk north of the border instead of crouched behind a center on North Campus practice field, but some things never change--Bruce Lemmerman is still on the run.

The Edmonton Eskimos football team is in the midst of training camp and Lemmerman, the team's director of operations, is darting this way and that, evaluating players, making travel arrangements, developing schemes to sell tickets.

"I wear a lot of hats," said Lemmerman, who wore the helmet of the San Fernando Valley State Matadors from 1965-67. He is the only quarterback from Valley State or Cal State Northridge, as the school is known today, to have played in the National Football League.

Once the Canadian Football League regular season begins July 10, Lemmerman will run a bootleg back to the United States and scout players from nine NFL teams in 20 days.

As the CFL season winds down, Lemmerman gears up for the league's draft of players from Canadian universities. "I'm responsible for who we pick," he said.

Lemmerman, 44, relishes responsibility. He'll tackle a problem with the tenacity of the fabled Los Angeles Rams Fearsome Foursome, the defensive line that chased an Atlanta Falcons quarterback named Bruce Lemmerman in the late '60s.

"Bruce is a tireless worker, the first one in, the last one to leave," said Hugh Campbell, the Edmonton general manager and Lemmerman's mentor for the past 13 years.

Resourceful and determined, Lemmerman has long been a shaker and mover. His sprint-out style was not only instrumental in getting the Valley State football program on its feet, it got him off and running on a lengthy professional career.

After playing mostly as a reserve for the Falcons from 1968-70, he helped Edmonton to Grey Cup championships in 1975, '77 and '78. He finished his 10-year CFL career having passed for 10,523 yards and 97 touchdowns. And he gained a reputation for ruggedness.

"Bruce broke his thumb before a playoff game with the (British Columbia) Lions in 1977," recalled Campbell, the Edmonton coach at the time. "When they put a cast on it, Bruce held a football so that the cast would form around the ball. All the newspapers said that he wouldn't be able to pass.

"Well, the temperature was below freezing. But on the first play, he threw a touchdown pass and we went on to win, 33-1. This from a guy with a cast on his right wrist and thumb."

Campbell decided then he had found a right-hand man. After retiring as a player, Lemmerman served under Campbell as an assistant coach for Edmonton, the L.A. Express of the United States Football League and the Houston Oilers of the NFL. He returned to Canada in 1986 as an assistant coach with Winnipeg and moved to the front office in 1988.

Because Winnipeg was in the middle of its 1987 season, Lemmerman could not attend the 20-year reunion of the Valley State team that played in the Junior Rose Bowl. As a Matador senior in 1967, Lemmerman had passed for 27 touchdowns and run for eight more to lead the team to its first winning record.

He wrote a letter to Sam Winningham, the former Valley State coach, part of which read: "I regret that I will not be able to attend the reunion. . . . (1967) was a special year under your leadership and I can still remember the price we all had to pay to put that winning team together."

Lemmerman was the glue, a quarterback who took charge in the huddle and improvised on the field.

"We built the offense around his running ability," said Winningham, who coached Valley State from the program's inception in 1962 until 1968. "He'd sprint out and pass or run. Bruce threw well on the run, but he took a lot of punishment."

Yet he endured. As a sophomore in 1965, Lemmerman ran for 408 yards and passed for 880, but did not throw a touchdown pass. Valley State, thin on the line and slow in the backfield, was shut out six times en route to a 1-9 record.

Lemmerman, however, went down with his guns blazing. In a 50-0 season-ending loss to Cal State Los Angeles, he completed 18 of 50 passes for 156 yards--setting school records in all three categories.

Talented receivers Dick Billingsley and Gerry Peters transferred from Glendale College the following year. Although the team was only 2-7-1 in 1966, the passing game began to click.

"When I came out for spring practice in '65, we didn't have a quarterback because Bruce was playing on the baseball team," recalled Billingsley, who is beginning his first season as Oak Park High football coach. "For the first two weeks, all we did was block. One day Lemmerman came to practice in his baseball pants. He went into the huddle and called a pass on the first play. From then on, we hit it off."

Lemmerman passed for 1,833 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. He also led the team in rushing for the second consecutive year, dashing for 437 yards in 99 carries on the sprint-out option. As usual, injuries hit the Matadors hard, forcing Lemmerman to play cornerback as well as quarterback.

"Against San Diego State, I had to cover Haven Moses, then avoid being sacked by Fred Dryer," Lemmerman said. "I had all the easy jobs."

Valley State had a well-deserved reputation for being a patsy, and six opponents scheduled the Matadors for their homecoming games in 1966.

Respect came the following year. Once again, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo scheduled Valley State for its homecoming game. This time, however, the Matadors crushed the Mustangs, 40-21, behind five Lemmerman touchdown passes.

"The year before, I was hit with some cheap shots and later found out that their fraternities had put a bounty on my head--$100," Lemmerman said. "In '67 we had their game plan the Tuesday before the game. I never asked how we got it, but that's how we beat them. Did I enjoy beating them? You bet."

More revenge opportunities followed. Valley State edged UC Santa Barbara, 28-27, and destroyed Cal Poly Pomona, 53-13, to set up a showdown for the California College Conference championship against Don Coryell-coached San Diego State, the nation's top-ranked College Division team.

Trailing, 23-21, with less than two minutes to play, Valley State drove inside the San Diego State 20-yard line before a Lemmerman pass was tipped, intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The Matadors lost, 30-21, but amassed 446 yards against a team that had outscored them, 163-6, in four previous meetings.

In the regular-season finale, Valley State posted a 42-6 win over Cal State L.A., another team that usually gored the Matadors. The win also earned Valley State a berth in the Junior Rose Bowl against West Texas State, which boasted backfield stars Mercury Morris and Duane Thomas.

West Texas State won, 34-14, but the Matadors' season was only mildly tarnished. Valley State, the team nicknamed the "Dirty Thirty" because of its dwindling ranks and scrappiness, had arrived.

Winningham, who had built the program from scratch, recognized that he had a leader in Lemmerman. "Bruce was an extension of the coaching staff," he said.

Lemmerman also was an extension of his father, Milt, who was nearly as involved in his son's development as the fanatical Marv Marinovich is with his son Todd, the USC quarterback.

Milt Lemmerman was a perfectionist, but his devotion to his son's football career paid off. Bruce, who is married and has two teen-age daughters, is quick to acknowledge that father knew best.

"After every game in college, many of which were losses, dad and I would take a walk in the parking lot and review the game, just about every play," he said. "I remember him talking a lot about character."

Milt Lemmerman died last year and his ashes were spread over the football field at Palomar College, which he supported in his later years.

The work ethic he preached gave his son the chance to play in the NFL. Lemmerman worked out regularly during the off-season, throwing passes to Billingsley and Peters for hours. Often sharing the field were Roman Gabriel of the Rams and Zeke Bratkowski of the Green Bay Packers, a local resident.

Bratkowski was impressed enough that he recommended Lemmerman to Norb Hecker, the Atlanta coach in 1968.

"Zeke and Hecker came to a baseball game my senior year and asked me to stay around and throw some passes," recalled Lemmerman, who was Valley State's third baseman and leading hitter. "I threw for about 20 minutes and Hecker offered me a contract."

Lemmerman threw only one touchdown pass in his NFL career, but it won a game against the San Francisco 49ers in 1968. "We beat John Brodie at old Kezar Stadium," he recalled.

Once again, Bruce Lemmerman had found a way to get the job done.

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-- statistics --



Bruce Lemmerman   Cal State Northridge  
Yr Team Att Cmp Yds Pct. TD Int Lg
1971 Edm 145 73 1,055 50.3 8 11 97
1972 Edm 60 34 541 56.7 7 4 61
1973 Edm 257 153 1,851 59.5 14 16 44
1974 Edm 140 68 858 48.6 4 10 66
1975 Edm 170 97 1,402 57.1 8 6 80
1976 Edm 354 189 2,271 53.4 13 18 50
1977 Edm 219 117 1,475 53.4 5 6 62
1978 Edm 38 23 294 60.5 1 2 41
1979 Edm 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0
1980 Ham 112 62 775 55.4 3 10 51
Total 10 1495 816 10,522 54.6 63 83 97


Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
1971 Edm 26 87 3.3 21 2
1972 Edm 12 39 3.3 15 3
1973 Edm 36 95 2.6 13 1
1974 Edm 9 26 2.9 7 0
1975 Edm 19 61 3.2 11 1
1976 Edm 24 137 5.7 18 0
1977 Edm 18 5 0.3 14 1
1978 Edm 5 -5 -1.0 0 0
1979 Edm 0 0 0.0 0 0
1980 Ham 6 26 4.3 16 0
Total 10 155 471 3.0 21 8


-- NFL --


Yr Team Att Cmp Yds Pct. TD Int Lg
1968 Atl 15 3 40 20.0 0 1 18
1969 Atl 62 25 330 40.3 1 4 57
Total 2 77 28 370 36.4 1 5 57


Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
1968 Atl 1 0 0.0 0 0
1969 Atl 10 57 5.7 20 1
Total 2 11 57 5.2 20 1