Jerry “Soupy” Campbell
Perhaps more so than any other player from the Ottawa Rough Riders of the 1970’s this hard-nosed middle linebacker stamped the letter “P” in the word “Punishment”.
Jerry “Soupy” Campbell was the undisputed leader of the ‘Riders defence, a rough and tumble squad that justly earned the nick-name “Capital Punishment.”
The rugged defender from The University of Idaho started his CFL career with the Calgary Stampeders (1965-68) but was traded to Ottawa part-way through the ’68 season.
Stampeder head coach Jerry Williams, who played at Washington State University, was familiar with Campbell and his college career and talked him into coming to Calgary.
“A couple of NFL teams had also shown some interest,” says Campbell, who was given the moniker “Soupy” while in high school, “but the money was about the same with Calgary.”
It was with Ottawa however that Campbell became a CFL star. A team captain, he anchored the Rough Rider defence for eight seasons (1968-75). From his second year on he was a league all-star seven straight years (1969-75).
“To me, being an all-star was a testament to your defensive line and that I could contribute to that,” says Campbell.
“In those days you didn’t have a coach telling you what plays to call. The middle linebacker called the plays. I watched a lot of film and studied my butt off. I knew by the way the other guy put his weight on his fingers to the way he was leaning what the play was. I just tried to force them to the end of the line and let our guys make the tackle.”
”It was cool playing for Ottawa,” says Campbell, now 65 and living in the Beach area of Toronto.
“We had a lot of great guys and a lot of great memories. Playing in the nation’s capital we were the big show. We had players. Wayne Smith, man he was tough. He came from the East Coast and didn’t even go to college. He ran like a panther. And Charlie Brandon. Marshall Shirk, he was a monster, and Mark Kosmos.”
“Back in those days Canadians were strong,” Campbell says. “Jackson, Tucker, Racine, Ron Stewart. These guys even outshined the Americans. Most of them were backfield people.”
Campbell took on the premiere offensive threats of his era. “George Reed, I played against him in college as well,” Campbell says.
“Jim Young, Jim Evenson from B.C., Terry Evanshan and Johnny Rodgers from Montreal, there were a lot of great ones. There was a lot more running back then and that yard off the line of scrimmage makes a big difference. The backfield in motion gives the offence a little bit of an edge as well.”
The toughest aspect of the game for Campbell was kick-off returns. “Man, kick-off returns,” he says with a laugh.
“They got about 60 yards to line you up. I’m not talking about the guy returning the kick; I’m talking about the big guys coming at you. They would switch back and come at you sideways. You’re concentrating on these big guys that are going to kick your butt. I was knocked out about three or four times in my career. All on kick-off returns.”
Campbell played in three Grey Cups for Ottawa and walked away a winner each time (1968, ’69 and ’73).
“In ’73 we were the best team in the CFL,” he says. “We had a big backfield and everyone on that team was big and tough. We had a great quarterback with Rick Cassata. Everyone was dedicated. We practiced tough and we stayed in shape. We had struggled a bit through the playoffs to get there. The thing is, even if you’re hurting it’s ‘let’s go’. You play like it’s your last game. And we did.” The Rough Riders edged Edmonton 22-18 at CNE Stadium in Toronto and Campbell earned his third Grey Cup ring.
Campbell returned to Calgary and finished out his career in 1976.
Jerry “Soupy” Campbell was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in 1996.
”I guess it really was recognition of my career,” says Campbell,.
“But more so for my teammates. I was honoured to be there. I was honoured for my teammates as well. Just to be there. You’ve played against these guys but you really don’t see them that often. Now I was going into the Hall of Fame with them.”
Campbell’s fellow inductees that year were Dan Kepley, Al Benecick, Bill Clarke and Frank Gibson.
During his playing days Campbell was a substitute teacher in both Calgary and Ottawa and continued teaching for a time following his retirement from football. He has owned a number of bars in the Toronto area including The Black Bull with former CFL star Bobby Taylor. He is still a co-owner of Captain Jack’s in Toronto.
Campbell values the time he spends with former teammate and current host of CBC’s The Fifth Estate, Bob McKeown. He stays fit walking and working out with weights and spending time with Kim, his wife of sixteen years. Campbell is also an avid golfer who plays to about a 14 handicap.
“I love it,” he says. “I’ve been playing for about 30 years.”
“Playing in the CFL was crazy,” says the former Rough Rider star. “It was neat. There is so much movement every year with players coming and going. The idea was to stay healthy. Guys are drilling you. Hitting you. There are lots of injuries. I just tried to stay healthy.”
By: Brian Snelgrove – CFL.ca Staff