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It is with great sadness the Stampeders learn of the death of Jerry Keeling, who quarterbacked the Red and White to the 1971 Grey Cup title. He was 78.
Keeling — known as “Bones” to his teammates because of his slender build — joined the Stampeders in 1961 after a standout career at the University of Tulsa. He first made a name for himself as a defensive halfback, earning CFL all-star honours in 1964, 1965 and 1967 and was a five-time division all-star on the defensive side of the ball. It wasn’t until Peter Liske left for the NFL that Keeling moved to the top of the depth chart at quarterback.
In Keeling’s first three years under centre, the Stamps were progressively more successful as they reached the West final in 1969 (a loss to Saskatchewan), the Grey Cup final in 1970 (a loss to Montreal) and won the championship in 1971 with a victory over the Toronto Argonauts.
The 1971 Grey Cup ended a 23-year title drought for the Stamps. The game, played in sloppy conditions at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium, was hardly conducive to quarterback play as Keeling threw only 16 passes but one of his throws found Herm Harrison in the end-zone for the game’s opening score. Keeling was a much bigger factor in the best-of-three West final win over Saskatchewan as he threw for a combined 537 yards and four touchdowns in back-to-back wins over the Roughriders.
Keeling played one more season for the Stamps — 1972 — before moving on to the Ottawa Rough Riders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He retired in 1975 but returned to Calgary in 1982 and 1983 to serve as an assistant coach for the Stamps.
Keeling was voted to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1989 and added to the Stampeders’ Wall of Fame in 1990.
As one of the best two-way players in franchise history, Keeling has his name in two very different places in the CFL record books. He shares the CFL’s record for the longest pass, a 109-yard connection with Terry Evanshen at Winnipeg on Sept. 27, 1966. He also has one of the longest fumble returns in league history, a 102-yarder against BC on Sept. 22, 1964.
During his 15 seasons as a CFLer — including seven in which quarterback was his primary position — Keeling completed 1,302 passes for 18,239 yards and 119 touchdowns.
Keeling was born in Paris, Tex., and grew up in Enid, Okla. He was residing in Oklahoma with his wife Vella at the time of his death.