Larry Highbaugh, the speedy defensive back-kick returner who helped the Edmonton Eskimos win six Grey Cups, has died. He was 67.
The Eskimos confirmed Highbaugh’s death Wednesday. A cause was not provided.
“We will forever be proud he donned the Green and Gold and extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and all affected by his loss,” the team said in a release.
The five-foot-nine, 175-pound native of Indianapolis actually began his CFL career with B.C. in 1971 and saw action as a running back, rushing 327 yards on 48 carries (6.8-yard average). He spent part of the ’72 season with the Lions before signing with Edmonton.
It was with the Eskimos that Highbaugh proved to be a threat both on defence and special teams. He established club records for the longest kickoff return (118 yards), longest punt return (116 yards), most kick-return TDs (three), interceptions (66) and interception yards (770).
Highbaugh played 174 of his 196 career CFL games with the Eskimos.
“In a league where speed wins, Larry Highbaugh was the fastest,” CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said in a statement. “In a league where big plays deliver big excitement, he was electrifying.
“In a league where everyone’s goal is a Grey Cup, he was a six-time champion. He helped make his teams great. And for all of those who saw him play, he made the game more fun, and his place in it, unforgettable. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.”
Highbaugh is tied for second in CFL history for most interceptions (returning four for touchdowns) and kick-return TDs. He earned his first Grey Cup win with Edmonton in 1975 before helping the Eskimos capture five consecutive league titles from 1977-82.
Overall, Highbaugh participated in nine Grey Cup games, one of just six players in league history to do so. He’s second in all-time Grey Cup interceptions with three.
Highbaugh was a four-time West Division all-star and captured league honours on three occasions. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
But it was his speed that energized the Eskimos’ kick-return game while also giving them a deep threat on offence. For his first seven years he averaged over 30 yards a return in three of those seasons was over 40 yards per return.
He also became a threat on punt returns, registering 42 returns for 705 yards in 1975 (16.8-yard average). He also had the 116-yard return for a TD that year.
Highbaugh also finished with 80 catches for 1,364 yards and 14 TDs. He’s a member of the Eskimo Wall of Honour and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.