The Toronto Argonauts Alumni Association has learned the news that Zeke O’Connor has passed away — he was 94.
William Francis “Zeke” O’Connor Jr., who was born on May 2, 1926, played five seasons in the All-America Football Conference and the Canadian Football League in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He played on the Argos’ 1952 Grey Cup championship team and caught the winning touchdown pass.
After retiring, O’Connor went into business and incredibly devoted himself to helping Nepalese Sherpas.
O’Connor grew up in a large Catholic family in New York City and went to college at the University of Notre Dame. After starting for Notre Dame’s football team as a freshman in 1944, he spent two years in the U.S. Navy during World War II and played for a service team at Naval Station Great Lakes. O’Connor returned to Notre Dame in 1946 and graduated in 1947, but he did not play in his senior year because of a knee injury.
O’Connor signed in 1948 with the Buffalo Bills of the AAFC, where he played for one year. He was then traded to the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won the AAFC championship in 1949, but O’Connor was cut early the next year and played one season for the minor-league Jersey City Giants. He next had a one-year stint with the New York Yanks of the National Football League before his playing career in the CFL with the Argonauts. A late-game touchdown catch by O’Connor helped the Argonauts win the Grey Cup in 1952.
O’Connor worked for Sears in Canada after his playing career, and served as the color commentator for Grey Cup broadcasts from 1956 to 1981. He became friends with the famed mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and helped establish a foundation in his name to benefit Sherpas in Nepal. On September 24, 2015, O’Connor was the recipient of the Sandy Hawley Community Service Award, awarded by the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario.
Zeke was often in attendance at Argo alumni events.