October 9, 2018

Hall of Fame Profile | Robert Gordon

Bombers wide reciever Robert Gordon runs with the ball during practice .n/a

The Winnipeg Football Club will officially welcome two new members to its Hall of Fame at this week’s annual Legacy Dinner: Robert Gordon, who played with the Bombers from 1999-2004 and builder Bob Miles, the long-time board member and former club president.

This is the second of our two profiles on the new inductees.

His numbers provide ample evidence as to why Robert Gordon is joining the legends that make up the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame.

Gordon suited up for six seasons as a member of the Blue Bombers, pulling in 288 passes for 4,474 yards and 20 touchdowns – totals which ranked him ninth on the club’s all-time list upon his retirement. But what those numbers don’t reveal is how popular Gordon was as a teammate during his days in blue and gold and over the course of a 13-year Canadian Football career that also included stops in Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and B.C.

In fact, poll any of the players on any of those teams from that era and the results would be unanimous and universal: Robert Gordon wasn’t just a heckuva player, he was a hall-of-fame teammate.

“I’m glad that might be said of me,” said Gordon in a chat with in advance of Tuesday’s Legacy Dinner. “It’s a physical game, but it’s entertainment. You spend so many hours together. You shower with these guys twice a day. You’re going out for dinner with them, on planes with them. You get booed together. If one guy’s not doing good you’ve got to pick him up. If another guy is getting too cocky you’ve got to pull him down a little bit.

“I wanted to be seen as a good teammate. It’s sure a lot better than someone saying ‘He’s an a—–e’. I don’t know why anybody would be like that in a team environment. I mean, there are so many guys sitting at home on their couch who would love to have the ability. God gave it to you, so work hard and do what you can do. But enjoy it, too. That’s me, man. That’s me.”

Gordon could flat-out play. That must be established first and foremost. He worked on teams that featured receivers like Milt Stegall and future stars like Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce III, along with the likes of Jamie Stoddard, Albert Johnson III, Markus Howell. He led the team in receiving in 2000, but was more than willing to effectively work in the shadow of the emerging force that was Stegall at the time.

“I used to tell Khari (Jones, the quarterback) that after he was done looking for Milt, I’d be open over by the first-down marker,” said Gordon with a chuckle.

That is Gordon in a nutshell. He has an infectious, often self-deprecating sense of humour, but was always willing to fight, scratch and crawl his way to that first-down marker while providing sage advice to the rest of the receiving corps. Remember, by the time he arrived in Winnipeg in 1999 after a year in the Arena League, he had already suited up for 108 career games with the Rough Riders, Argonauts, Lions and Eskimos. He came to Winnipeg because of the opportunity but also to be reunited with both coach Dave Ritchie and GM Brendan Taman. It was Taman who brought Gordon into the CFL in Ottawa, while Gordon had also played for Ritchie in Ottawa and B.C. before becoming a Blue Bomber.

“Coach Ritchie was the kind of coach who had all the players over for Thanksgiving, the kind of guy you wanted to play for,” Gordon recalled. “He’d let me go (to the Arena League) to make some money for my family and then come back for the CFL season. It was like a gentlemen’s agreement. How could I go sign for anyone else when we had that kind of agreement? Those days were good.

“You know, teams change so much now from year to year, but when you see a team go to a coach’s house for Thanksgiving dinner there’s something going on in that locker room. It means there are good leaders in there and they’re showing these young boys how to lead. A lot of guys lead by their play. I was also ‘Uncle Bob’ to the receivers. My wife and I would also have the guys over to the house for chicken breast dinners. Those were great days.”

Gordon was part of a Bombers transformation after some tough seasons from 1997-99. By the 2000 campaign they were back in the playoffs, losing in the East Final, and in 2001 cranked out a 14-4 season that did not end the way the Bombers script had been written – by losing to a Calgary Stampeders team that had been 8-10 in the Grey Cup.

“We loved each other, man,” said Gordon. “We went all out on that field for each other and it just kept getting better and better. We got to 2001 and we knew we were the best team in the league that year, but we came up short. Still, no one can take away the relationships we had. We should have been Grey Cup champions and that hurts. But you can’t take away those wins, those good stats and the fun we had. It was just a blast, man. I’d rather be on a team like that than one where guys don’t get along, where no one sees each other in the offseason.

“It’s fun when you’re winning. It’s fun to make plays. It’s fun to make dance moves up and dance after a touchdown. It’s fun to hear that crowd. It was cold, but it was fun.”

Gordon’s last year in the CFL was in 2004 with the Bombers – he played in the 2005 Arena season with the Los Angeles Avengers – but he has remained active in the game. He coached the Shenyang Black Rhinos of the China Arena Football League, and has worked in the Spring League and a guest coach with the Seattle Seahawks. As many fans already know, he had roles in five different Hollywood movies, including ‘Any Given Sunday’ and ‘We Are Marshall’, and today also works as a coach for Nike sports camps and as a talent scout for World Wrestling Entertainment.

There’s more, as Gordon pointed out during his recent chat that “we just got a new puppy, so today I’m also working as a pooper scooper.”

Gordon plans to ‘wing it’ during his acceptance speech at Tuesday’s Legacy Dinner, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t spent time thinking about the road travelled to the Bombers hall of fame. He was a D-2 prospect out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, a kid given the opportunity to play the game by his parents – he just recently lost his father – who had to grind to get here.

“What does this mean to me? It shows that my hard work paid off and I did my job,” said Gordon. “I was productive. And I think I got along well with everybody and was a good teammate. Something like this shows I was one of the best to do it for that organization. It’s huge. I’m so honoured. You never think about it when you’re playing.

“I’ve got a lot of memories with that ball club, with that city, with the players, coaches and fans. Football came easy for us. It came easy for me because I worked so hard in the offseason. I wasn’t the fastest or the biggest, but the ball was going to get caught and you could count on me in the fourth quarter. That’s what I took pride in. Looking back now, I really really enjoyed my time up there. I froze, but it was great.”