Tobin Rote - Quarterback - 1960-62 - Rice
Rob Malich - Toronto Argonauts website - 1996
There is something about playing quarterback, a sort of Hollywood-type mystique that surrounds the position. Handsome, fast-living, intelligent, and leader-like, the stereotype of the quarterback was the reality with Tobin Rote.
A tall, athletic and robust athlete, Rote was quite possibly the most-talented quarterback to ever play for the Double Blue, although fans of Joe Theismann, Condredge Holloway and Doug Flutie might disagree.
He was also a man-about-town, whose affinity for the good things in life was well-established.
"He set a CFL record for completions - 38 - after he had been out until 7:00 in the morning on the day of a game," said teammate Bobby Kuntz to Gord Walker in his book. "Granted, it was a night game, but he only got about three hours sleep. The day before, his hand was shaking, but he could throw the ball. He could play football under any circumstance."
Joining the Argonauts in 1960 from the NFL's Detroit Lions, with whom he won an NFL championship in 1957, Rote's rookie Argo season was one of the best in the team's history. Combining with receiver Dave Mann for an excellent one-two punch, Rote completed 255 of 450 passes for 4,247 yards and 38 touchdown passes. His 38 TD passes is still an Argo record, as is his 524 passing yards in a single game (Aug, 19, 1960 vs. Montreal), and his 108-yard TD pass to Jim Rountree is
still the longest in Argo history.
"He was the most respected player on the team," said Kuntz. "Tobin was clearly a winner."
In 1960, Rote won more regular-season games (10) than any other Argo QB before him, but he lost to Ottawa in a memorable eastern final. The year after, the team slumped to 7-6-1, but got revenge on Ottawa by winning 43-19 in the semi-final. Then in the final, there was even greater heartbreak this time, as the team lost a two-game total point series to Hamilton after blowing an 18-point first game lead.
In 1961, Rote's numbers were solid but not as good as his rookie year, as he completed 220-of-389 passes for 3,093 yards and 16 touchdowns. His numbers dropped again in 1962, to 187-of-348 for 2,532 yards and 12 touchdowns, and so did the team, to a 4-10 record and last place in Rote's final year.
While his accomplishments on the field at times were almost legendary, so too were some off-field accomplishments, particularly when it came to drinking beer.
"He never got drunk, or never seemed to be impaired," said teammate Fred Black to Walker. "But if we had an eleven o'clock practice, in the huddle there was beer on his breath; if there was an afternoon practice, there was beer on his breath."
Black remembered one barbeque at his place where Rote cemented his reputation. "I didn't count, but I'm sure that Tobin had 15 beers before we left to go to my place. And then he took over the barbeque. He had to marinate steaks, and while he's doing this, he must have had another four or five beers. And then he said, 'I'll bet you I can drink 12 beers in three minutes." Needless to say, he succeeded.
Excerpt - CFL Eastern Pivots spark excitement - GlobeandMail - Marty York - June 1996
Rote views himself as a National Football Leaguer who briefly interrupted his career with a stint in Canada.
"But don't get me wrong," Rote said from his home in Michigan, where at 68 he is retired as a marketing executive and recovering from an operation in which he received an artificial left knee. "A lot of those guys (in the CFL) were tough bastards."
"And I won't lie to you. Faloney, Etcheverry and Jackson brought the best in me, that's for sure. I can remember people saying that Etcheverry had the best arm in the CFL and I wanted badly to prove that I could throw better than him. And then I went out and threw more touchdown passes against Montreal that year than I had thrown against all teams combined in some years. I think I threw 28 touchdown passes against Montreal in 1960."
Rote shouldn't be so quick to take the credit for his success against Montreal, according to Etcheverry.
It didn't take much to tear our defence apart in 1960, recalled Etcheverry, who at 63 manages an investment firm in Montreal and recently purchased seasons tickets for the Alouettes games. Tobin was right on target against us, but the truth is that we had a new coaching staff (the head coach was Perry Moss) and he wanted to implement the zone defence for the first time. Our guys didn't know what they were doing. Tobin just blew us right out of the stadium.
Rote, who was raised in Houston and still speaks with a Texas drawl, admitted that he never understood the CFL's "strange rules and idiosyncracies.
I still don't understand what a goddamn rouge is, he said. Sometimes, we'd lose games up there and I didn't know why. The other team would kick a ball somewhere and, it wasn't a field goal or anything, and next thing I know, they'd get points for it.
Me? All I wanted to do in Toronto was pass the football and give it to guys like (Dick) Shatto and beat the hell out of Faloney and those other guys.
Well, that's not really all Rote wanted to do in Toronto. The man had built quite a reputation as something of a party animal, too.
Yeah, I know, he said, but there were some good reasons for that. My family was in Michigan and there was never anything for me to do on our days off. So I'd have Shatto and the guys over at my place and we partied. You see, I had some deals with Molson's, the beer people, and part of my agreement with them was that I got some free cases of beer. So the guys would come to my place all the time and we'd drink lots of free beer. Because I was the one who provided the beer, I got classified as the guy who liked to party a lot.
'Funny, but I guess it was true. I like to party. And I liked to hang out with the guys.'
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