Skip to main content

Gary Schreider excelled in just about everything he did on a football field over nine seasons as a professional player, eight of them for the old Ottawa Rough Riders.

Schreider, a versatile defensive halfback who also played fullback and corner linebacker, returned punts and kickoffs besides kicking field goals and converts.

"He ranked with the best Canadian defensive backs in the Canadian Football League at the time," said CFL legend Russ Jackson, a Rider teammate and close friend of Schreider's.

Story continues below advertisement

"He had a great understanding of the game as a defensive back. On DB it's that quick start that makes the difference. You have to run that quick, short distance and that's where he had that great ability," said Jackson.

Schreider's success on the field was equalled by his achievements as a lawyer and judge after he retired from football. He died of pneumonia on Jan. 22 in Ottawa at 76.

Starring for the Riders as defensive captain in 1960, his fifth season as a pro, Schreider, who wore No. 22, was one of the club's sparkplugs as the Riders won the 48th Grey Cup by beating the Edmonton Eskimos 16-6 on Nov. 26, 1960, in Vancouver's old Empire Stadium.

After opening the scoring in the first quarter with a 16-yard field goal, he wrapped it up at the end of the fourth quarter by kicking the ball for a convert on a fumble recovery touchdown by teammate Kaye Vaughan.

That 1960 season turned out to be a banner one for Schreider, who packed 188 pounds of hard muscle on his five-foot, 11-inch frame.

Not only was he selected to the Big Four all-star squad as a defensive halfback, The Globe and Mail also picked him as an Eastern all-star at corner linebacker.

The Riders finished second in the Eastern Football Conference with a record of 9-5 and he scored 71 points, including two touchdowns, 42 converts, five field goals and two singles. He also made five interceptions, two for touchdowns.

With his blond crewcut and boy-next-door good looks, the easygoing Schreider was an ambassador for the Riders and the CFL. He never boasted about his athletic talent and never forgot the fans paid his salary.

In fact, he never refused anyone his autograph, said his wife, Pat. "He stayed for the last kid. He knew it was important as a role model."

Gary Edward Schreider was born on April 21, 1934, in Belleville, Ont. A superb athlete who excelled in football, hockey, basketball, baseball and track and field, Schreider may have gotten that talent naturally. His father Ed played quarterback for Belleville in the intermediate Ontario Rugby Football Union in the 1930s.

Leading Toronto's St. Michael's College School to three consecutive championships, Schreider was the leading point-scorer in the Ontario Catholic Conference for each year. He scored 12 touchdowns and 76 points in his best year.

Coached by the legendary Lloyd Percival, Schreider also excelled in track, especially in the 100 and 220 yards. In 1953, he set a new Canadian junior record for the 60-yard dash for runners 18 years and under, when he ran it in 6.3 seconds.

A highlight of Schreider's high school football career was the 1950 sudden-death playoff game against St. Jerome's College of Kitchener. His two touchdowns powered St. Mike's to a 21-5 victory and the Ross Trimble Memorial Trophy, symbolic of the league championship.

Story continues below advertisement

The victory was especially sweet for Schreider because he played head to head against running back Bobby Kuntz, a future Toronto Argonauts star. "That game still ranks as one of the high points of my career," he recalled decades later.

But he also did well in the classroom and was chosen as class valedictorian when he graduated in 1953.

Schreider, a life-long Catholic, almost became a priest after high school. But he soon decided it wasn't for him and matriculated with Queen's University in Kingston.

In his third year, Schreider helped lead the Golden Gaels to the Intercollegiate Senior Football Championship by beating the University of Toronto Blues 18-0. It was the Golden Gaels' first championship in 18 years.

Playing with Ron Stewart, Bill Surplis and Al Kocman, Schreider was the fourth member of the legendary "Go-Go Gaels Quartet."

As if football wasn't enough, when he went back home to Toronto for the weekends he found time to play baseball for the Earlscourt Juniors. In 1954, starring at centre field, he hit .320 while leading the club to the West Toronto championship.

Story continues below advertisement

In 1956, Schreider decided not to return to Queen's for his final year and turned professional with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union, better known as the Big Four. The three other clubs were the Montreal Alouettes, the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

He made the club. Head coach Frank Clair, nicknamed "The Professor" for his ability to recognize and develop talent, was determined to turn the losing Riders around and Schreider quickly became a big part of that.

Wearing No. 92, he excelled in his rookie season, leading the Big Four in punt returns for an average of 11.1 yards per carry, making 16 for 178 yards over all. For kickoff returns, he was second in the east with a 28.2 yard average, for 282 yards.

The Riders finished third in the east with a 7-7 record, a vast improvement over the previous year in 1955 when they were 3-9 and finished last.

Schreider's hard-running style of play and rugged defensive ability soon caught the attention of Ottawa fans. But it wasn't about the money, since he was paid only $4,500 for his rookie season.

No one played for the money during that era, said Pat Schreider. "They played for the love of the game."

Story continues below advertisement

He thought he was fast in college ball, but adjusting to the pro game took some time, Schreider recalled decades later. "Everything happens so much faster. I had good speed, but being involved with 24 people that are just as fast makes it much harder."

Although he was much smaller than the 300-pound-plus men who play today, he enjoyed the physical aspect of the game and playing both ways.

"You have to want to punish people out there. You play with reckless abandon. On offence it becomes a challenge to get loose and on defence you don't want to let anybody beat you," he said in 1986.

On one memorable afternoon in September, 1957, Schreider thrilled a record Lansdowne Park crowd of 19,998 by scoring 11 points as the Riders beat the Montreal Alouettes 17-16.

Sportswriter Lloyd McGowan of the old Montreal Star wrote that his performance that day proved that Canadian players were as good or better than the Americans.

Montreal had been leading the Riders 16-6 with 16 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter before Schreider electrified the crowd by winning the game with his "frenzied foray," wrote McGowan.

Story continues below advertisement

"In a Merriwellian performance, [he]posted 10 points in the last quarter with a touchdown, convert, and last minute 35-yard field goal that brought the fans surging on to the lawn."

It was Schreider's first field goal ever kicked from placement and it cleared the bar with six inches to spare. "My trouble in the past in trying to kick a placement had always been to hit it on the side and slough it off halfway. But the moment I hit this one I knew it was square. I had a little wind with me. I felt it was going to make it. Not by much - but it did," he told reporters after the game.

Ottawa newspaper columnist Bill Westwick wrote that Schreider "snatched the hero's role when the big moment came. A quiet-spoken, shy sort of a hero, but a real one who sent spectators home limp and talking about it over and over."

Schreider, respected as a quiet leader on and off the field, played with many Rider stars, including Russ Jackson, Kaye Vaughan, Whit Tucker, Ron Lancaster, Sam Scoccia, Ted Smale and Bill Sowalski.

Calling the signals for Ottawa's defence, he described his job as a "sort of guessing game" with high stakes. "You might be using three or four defences for a particular game, some for running and some for passing. It's your job to figure out the situation and, from experience with their offence, call a particular defence. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't," he said in 1960.

Rider offensive guard Hardiman Cureton knew how valuable Schreider was to Ottawa. "He's the key to our defence and one of the most underrated players in the league."

Aware that football wouldn't last forever, Schreider entered the University of Ottawa in 1958 for a postgraduate course in law. Maintaining a full course load during the football season wasn't easy, but he valued education and knew that he had to look to the future.

That attitude didn't endear him to Frank Clair. He tolerated it for four years, but traded Schreider to the British Columbia Lions for the 1962 season.

He played for the Lions for the first seven games of the 1962 season before quitting to take the bar admission course in Toronto. Then the Hamilton Tiger-Cats picked him up for the final five games.

Clair brought him back to Ottawa for two more seasons, 1963 and 1964, paying him $9,000. After retiring, Schreider practised law with Binks, Chilcott and Schreider.

His personal statistics for nine CFL seasons are impressive: nine touchdowns, 151 converts, 20 field goals and seven singles for a grand total of 272 points.

Playing offensively, he made 94 rushes for 401 yards and caught the ball 13 times for 165 yards. Returning 116 punts for 851 yards, he also returned kickoffs 15 times for 362 yards.

Concerned about getting a better deal for the players, he co-founded, along with Bobby Simpson, the CFL Player's Association in 1961.

Some of the concessions he won from the owners on behalf of the players included payment for exhibition games, fees for appearing in public, better training camp conditions and a pension plan.

Schreider also acted as a player agent from 1970-76. He represented figure skater Lynn Nightingale, his former teammate Russ Jackson and NHL player Murray Wilson, among others.

Appointed Queen's Counsel in 1977, Schreider was named to the bench in 1984 when he was appointed as master to the Supreme Court of Ontario.

As master, he heard pretrial motions in civil matters, interim matters dealing with support and custody of children and solicitor and client bills.

Despite his impressive title, he was always ready to help people, said his son Michael. "He never thought any job was too small or menial for him. At the end of the month, he'd go down to the courthouse on Elgin Street and help the clerks with the paperwork."

The football talent in the Schreider family ran to the third generation, as all four of his sons played football. Suzanne, his daughter, played basketball.

During their younger years, all five kids attended every Rider game faithfully with their father, sitting at the 55-yard line. "He kept football and the Riders alive for us. It [was]a family atmosphere. We always supported the Riders, no matter how hard it became," said Michael.

Schreider was inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, Queen's University's Football Hall of Fame, the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame and the St. Michael's College School Wall of Fame. He retired from the bench in 2004.

On Oct. 22, 2010, 20 Rough Riders from the 1960 season got together in Ottawa to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their Grey Cup championship.

Schreider was too ill to attend, but his teammates didn't forget No. 22, their old defensive captain.

In a heartfelt tribute, Russ Jackson brought the Grey Cup to Schreider's home so he could see it one last time. "I think he knew it was there," said Jackson.

Schreider leaves Patricia, his wife of 52 years, sons Gary, Ron, Tom and Michael, daughter Suzanne and 12 grandchildren.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter