Carl Weathers the British Columbia Lion
Football career of Apollo Creed had a nasty side – Jim Proudfoot – Toronto Star – Aug 1, 1979
Ever heard of Carl Weathers? No? Well, then, how about Apollo Creed?
You’ve got it. Apollo Creed is the heavyweight boxer who’s now 1-ans-1 against Rocky Balboa in what could turn into an endless series of fight movies identified by Roman numerals, like the Super Bowl. First, in 1976, there was Rocky. Now there’s Rocky II and the way it finished, Rocky III is inevitable. Nobody can predict where this might all end.
Carl Weathers must hope it never does because he’s the very capable actor who impersonates Muhammad Ali in these immensely popular Rocky epics. Apollo Creed is the name they use in the script but the character is Ali in every way – a superb, supremely conceited athlete, an outrageous showman in public and in private, a shrewd, intelligent, very likeable individual.
Weathers is worthy of note just now because of all the football in his background. This really is football time, you know.
As a matter of fact, Weathers might still be playing linebacker for British Columbia Lions, instead of making motion pictures, if injuries hadn’t cut short his sports career in 1972.
Before that, he had played for Oakland Raiders and was the key figure in the cruel elimination of New York Jets’ Roy Kirksey – an ugly incident that somehow failed to stir up a National Football League controversy. Chances are it would have, if it had happened during the regular seaon, with television cameras watching instead of in an exhibition game.
Kirksey was on of those reckless chaps who dashes madly downfield under kickoffs and punts. It was his job to smash down the initial wedge of blockers, as they would form up, and permit teammates to get through to the return man. And Kirksey was particularly good at, to the extent – so the legend goes – that the Oakland club put out a contract on him. He was a marked man in the preseason skirmish of Aug 14, 1971. He had wrought havoc for the last time, if Raiders had anything to say about it – and they usually did.
Kirksey was in full flight as a New York kickoff spun into Oakland territory. To his surprise, he shot right past the lead guy, No. 49 (Carl Weathers), so he prepared to make the tackle. At that point, Weathers, scrambling to puruse – or hunting, the unsuspecting Kirkey – hit him from behind, tearing up one of his ankles.
Weathers never denied that he’d deserved a clipping penalty , though none was imposed. He’s also admitted he’d been costing Raiders so much yardage, game in and game out, for clips that coach John Madden had threatened to fine him for his next offence. And he finally confirms that Raiders had decided, after watching films of Jets at work, that Kirksey would have to be singled out for special treatment.
But he’s horrified of course to think that he’s suspected of setting Kirksey up and then dealing him a blow which was almost certain to cause serious damage. Which would be only of slight consolation to Kirksey, who’d been destined to become a first string guard with Jets and actually never got going again in football. Knee problems followed, perhaps related to the ankle situation, and he wound up in Toronto as a candidate for employment with the 1975 Argos. He flunked the physical examination.
“I think about Weathers every day when the weather turns cold and that ankle starts hurting. I think about how that one play messed up my career.” Kirksey said. “I saw films on it and how No.49 followed me all the way and went for my legs.
Says Weathers; “Sure, I was going for the man, but I didn’t even know at the time I was clipping him. He was going to tackle the ball-carrier so it was my job to take him.”
Now Bobby Ackles, general manager of the BC team picks up the narrative.
“Weathers came to us late in 1971. after Oakland cut him, finished that season here and was a starting linebacker all through ’72. he was released just before the ’73 schedule opened.” Ackles says.
“He was an absolutely outstanding football player but always hurt, it seemed. He always had some little thing wrong with him and that’s why he was dropped. You never knew whether he’d be able to play or not.
“He was a famous guy when we got him; He’d done a lot of modeling and his face was familiar from various national ads. He used to play the guitar and sing and I remember he used to entertain at Joe Kapp’s night club.
“I guess we did him a favor by sending him down the road because he went from our training camp right into acting. I’m always seeing him on television now in movies too. As good a linebacker as he was, I think he’s a better actor’.
The pay cheques are somewhat larger, too.”