Joe Poplawski was an exceptional high school athlete competing at that level in football track and field soccer basketball and hockey. His athletic talents drew the attention of scouts from several US universities and he was offered but declined scholarships to play football hockey as well as soccer Joe skills as a soccer player were widely recognized and he was recruited without success to try out for Canada’s national soccer team He was determined to attend the University of Alberta and to play for the Golden Bears football team He won starting positions as both a wide receiver and as a place kicker in his first season And in his final season with the Bears (1977) Joe “Pop” as he was affectionately known led the CWUAA n receptions and points scored. Throughout his Golden Bear career Joe Poplawski was a gridiron star.
At the end of the 1977 season Joe was named a CIAU All Star receiver and was selected to play for the Canadian University football side against a select team of USA All Stars in the first Can Am Bowl.
In the spring of 1978 after being an Eskimo terntor ally protected player the Edmonton Eskimos traded Joe to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers From his first season with the Blue Bombers in 1978 until his retirement n 1986 Joe was a standout. He won the Jackie Parker trophy as the Outstanding Rookie in the West the Schenley Outstanding Rookie award (the first Canadian born player to win this award) and was named an All Western wide receiver in his inaugural 1978 season. For his outstanding play during each of the 1978-1981, 1984-1985 and 1986 seasons Joe Poplawski was named a member of the CFL All Canadian team. During those same five seasons he also won the Dr Beattie Martin Trophy awarded to the Outstanding Canadian player in the Western Division of the CFL. In 1984 Joe’s Blue Bombers won the Grey Cup, emblematic of Canadian football supremacy. For his outstanding performances of 1981 and 1986 Joe Poplawski was awarded the Schenley as the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Player (an award for which he was runner up in 1978, 1984 and 1985). Interestingly a quirk of fate required Joe to call upon his talents as a place kicker. Toward the end of his last season the Bombers regular kicker former Golden Bear Trevor Kennerd was seriously injured. Joe was chosen to fill Trevor’s spot and he achieved a remarkable 80% success rate. So outstanding was this inductee’s performance on the football field and in his leadership roles that the Manitoba Nominating Committee named Joe Poplawsk Manitoba s 1986 Male Athlete of the Year.
In his nine seasons with the Blue Bombers Joe won virtually every national award presented by the CFL. Still perhaps ih s greatest recognition came from his own Club and team mates – for his superior play and leadership, he won the Tommy Lumsden Memorial Trophy for the most valuable Canadian player on the Blue Bombers in 1978 1980 1981 1983 and 1984. In 1986 his final year with this team he was the Jack Jacobs Trophy winner.
Joe Poplawski rece ved a singularly important award of recognition when Winnipeg’s Mayor Bill Nome proclaimed October 2nd 1988 as “Joe Poplawski Day” – a fitting tribute for this man’s outstanding leadership in his community and his stellar performance as the Blue Bombers leading pass receiver.
Even after his retirement this superb athlete continued to receive numerous awards of recognition. In 1990 Joe was inducted into both the Winnipeg Blue Bomber and the Manitoba Sports Halls of Fame and in 1998 nto the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame.
His love of football lured Joe to a role as a CJOB color commentator for his Blue Bombers home and away games, a position he filled from 1992-1996. Today Joe is a highly regarded Winn peg businessman, a Vice President of Ranger Insurance Company. He continues his link to the Blue Bombers by serving on the team’s Board of Directors as well as the Vice President of the Bombers Alumni Association. Joe has helped to improve the lives of others by serving as an Honorary Big Brother the Honorary Chair of the Kidney Foundation Cyclothon (1984 1990), an executive of the St James Canadians AA Hockey Club and as Chair of the 1990 Western Canada Summer Games.