September 2, 2019

Alumni Profile | Joe Poplawski

must credit -KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - in pic fierce competitor Winnipeg Blue Bomber slot back Joe Poplawski in game vs Edmonton Eskimos during CFL game at Winnipeg Stadium - Oct 23 1983- kgsports keyword Òkgsports Ò will bring up selected Bomber / Jets ,best of sports, photos shot prior to digital file


 Years with the Bombers: 1978-86
Position: Wide receiver/slotback
Currently resides: Winnipeg
Occupation: Recently retired from Ranger/AJG Insurance
Family: My wife Darlene (also retired) and I are proud parents of our three sons Derek, Wade and Brent, plus our daughter-in-law Krista, married to Derek who are the parents of our two grandsons, Chase and Brooks.

5 Quick Facts about Joe Poplawski

  1. Poplawski played his entire pro career with the Blue Bombers, but was actually a territorial pick of the Edmonton Eskimos in the 1978 CFL Draft. Prior to the ’78 season he was dealt to Winnipeg for slotback Tom Scott, who had been a CFL All-Star in 1977 but was not happy with his contract.
  2. Poplawski is one of the most decorated Bombers in franchise history. He was twice named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian (1981, 1986) and a runner-up on three occasions, was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie (1978), a CFL All-Star five times (1978, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986), the Bombers Most Outstanding Rookie (1978) and Most Outstanding Canadian six times (1978, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986).
    He is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the Winnipeg Football Hall of Fame, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and the University of Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.
  3. Poplawski retired at the age of 29 and still ranks third on the Bombers all-time receiving list, behind only Milt Stegall and James Murphy. After stepping away from the Bombers, then-Winnipeg Mayor Bill Norrie proclaimed October 2nd, 1988 ‘Joe Poplawski Day.’
  4. In his final season – 1986 – Poplawski not only pulled in 74 catches for 1,075 yards and eight touchdowns, he also filled in for kicker Trevor Kennerd when he was injured and went 8-of-10 in field goal attempts, including a 45-yarder. Poplawski would later have a brief stint with the Winnipeg Fury of the Canadian Soccer League.
  5. Poplawski has called Winnipeg home since being traded from the Eskimos, and following his retirement from the game, worked in the insurance business, as a colour analyst for CJOB and also served on the Bombers Board of Directors.

Fondest memory playing with the Bombers:

It’s difficult to choose only one. So I will start with my first CFL game versus B.C. and it stands out because I really didn’t expect to make the team as I still had two years of college eligibility left. That first game is still vivid.

My other most memorable event was our 1984 Grey Cup victory. We had been so close to playing in the Cup game the previous few years so it was very special when we finally advanced. Adding to the drama was the fact that we were playing in Edmonton, my hometown, in front of a number of my family and friends, against Dieter Brock, our former teammate and friend. The celebration back in Winnipeg made it all very special!

Proudest football accomplishment:

I would have to say that my consistent play throughout my career comes to mind. I missed most of the 1979 season, only playing the first game before breaking my ankle, but of the remaining eight seasons I was fortunate to have been selected to the CFL All-Star team five times. Of course I had plenty of help playing with some very talented teammates!

Proudest non-football accomplishment:

This one is easy: my family. Darlene and I have raised three terrific sons. I cannot be more proud as I have watched and continue to watch them in their personal and career lives. We are all presented with challenges and difficulties. They handle these with intelligence, maturity and respect. I repeat myself, Dar and I couldn’t be more proud.

Favourite hobby/past-time:

As mentioned, I have been retired for a little more than a year and am really enjoying retirement as I now have time to enjoy the less hectic life. Going to the cottage, golfing, fishing, traveling out of province, working in the yards at home and the lake are all a lot more fun these days as I have more time to enjoy them.

Prized football possession:

I have three rings related to football achievements. The 1984 Grey Cup ring, a Canadian Football Hall Of Fame ring and the Bomber Hall of Fame ring. Although they pale in comparison to present day championship rings, I still wear them proudly – interchanging them daily and I can’t help but smile when someone notices and asks about them.

Four former teammates you’d love to have dinner with again:

Shortly after I retired, three of my fellow receivers and closest teammates – James Murphy, Jeff Boyd and Perry Tuttle – took me out for dinner. I don’t recall the content of our conversation, but I do recall that I didn’t want the evening to end. The only person missing was former teammate Rick House but he was with the Eskimos at that time. Getting together again with those four, including Houser, would be wonderful, and I am sure we’d be the last customers to leave.

Most-talented Bomber player you played with was…

I would be doing an injustice to select only one player, as we had some very good teams comprised  of outstanding players. So I am going to list a number of players. Here they are in no special order and I must apologize in advance as I am sure to have forgotten a name or two – Tom Clements, Dieter Brock, Willard Reaves, William Miller, John Bonk, Chris Walby, Tony Norman, Eugene Goodlow, James Murphy, Rick House, John Helton, Tyrone Jones, Paul Bennett and Scott Flagel.

At some point during my playing days these players were the best, in my eyes, at their position and were critical to the Bombers’ success!

Bomber coach who had the most influence on you:

I was fortunate to have played for two of the CFL’s greatest coaches and both were responsible for my success and our team’s success. Ray Jauch brought me here, and it was a gamble. Tom Scott wanted out of Winnipeg was traded to Edmonton and in exchange for this All-Star receiver the Bombers got this green, 20-year old unknown receiver/kicker – me! Ray had the confidence to not only trade for me but put me in the starting lineup as a rookie and then knew when it was time to convert me from a wide receiver to a slotback.

And of course the second coach was Cal Murphy. Cal knew what we needed to get to the ‘promised land.’ His knowledge resulted in both personnel and game-preparation changes resulting in us becoming champions. I owe a great deal to both men.

What you miss about playing football:

I miss my teammates and the fun of being around them. Consider approximately 50 men from various parts of Canada and the U.S. each with their own unique backgrounds and personalities working under stressful times towards a single common goal – there is nothing like it. It’s priceless!

Secondly, I miss the fans and the tremendous support they gave us. I once again bring up the celebration which was city and province wide following our Grey Cup victory. The celebration in the old arena followed up by the parade will never be forgotten.

What you don’t miss about playing football:

The only thing I don’t miss is the pain and injuries. By the end of my career getting out of bed became a challenge due to my back issues. I recall having to take medication prior to and at times during the games to help me play through the pain. But you know at the end of the day I would do it all over again as those were nine great years

Thank you for this opportunity to do this Alumni Profile as it resulted in some great memories.