Bill Symons - Running Back - 1967-73 - University of Colorado
Rob Malich - Toronto Argonauts website - 1996
Most football players can only dream of having a year like Argonaut running back Bill Symons had in 1968. Not only was he the first Argo to break the 1,000 yard barrier in rushing, but he was also the inaugural Argo winner of the Schenley Award as the league's most outstanding player.
However, there was one thing missing that year, and it remained missing for the rest of Symons' great career: a Grey Cup championship.
"I thought we had an excellent team in '68 when I won (the most valuable player award); I thought that team was even better than the '71 team (that lost the Grey Cup to Calgary)," said Symons. "The largest disappointment was the loss of the Grey Cup, and it grows more and more as the years go by. You see all these players with rings, and it's one of the things I don't have."
Drafted by the NFL's Green Bay Packers out of the University of Colorado in 1965, Symons was on the Pack's injured reserve list when they won their last NFL championship, a year before the first Super Bowl. Symons was cut in that Super Bowl year, and made his way to the B.C. Lions in mid-season. He was traded to the Argos in 1967, and he played
sporadically that first year. However, he quickly blossomed in his Argo sophomore season,
gaining 1,107 yards on 164 carries for an impressive 6.8 yard average, as well as catching 44 passes for an additional 536 yards and the subsequent MVP accolades.
Symons' next two seasons weren't chopped liver either, though. He gained 905 and 908 yards respectively, playing on some successful Argo teams that couldn't quite get past Ottawa in the eastern finals.
"We weren't destined to win, but we had a heck of a team," said Symons, who opened a popular Toronto bar with Bobby Taylor called "The Domed Stadium" during this time. "We were a bunch of fighters."
When the Argos finally did make it to the Grey Cup in 1971, Leon McQuay arrived, which relegated Symons to a lesser role for the remainder of his career.
"Sometimes it was hard to take, (in that) you don't do what you used to do," said Symons, who despite the blow to his pride, still finished as the second leading rusher in Argo history behind only Dick Shatto. "In my time, I was considered a speed back. In the early years, there were probably only two guys who could catch me."
As with a lot of running backs, six knee operations forced him to retire to his ranch near Hockley Valley, about an hour northwest of Toronto, where he raises cattle and horses just like he did in his youth on a 25,000 acre spread in Colorado. He has also worked for AFA Forest Products, a wholesale lumber distribution company, for the past 20 years, as well as raise his four kids (Kellie, Stacie, Curtis and Miles).
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