Former CFL MOP Willard Reaves to run for MLA position vacated by former Manitoba premier

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant /

A retired CFL award winner and Grey Cup champion is seeking public office in the province of Manitoba.

Willard Reaves has agreed to run for the Manitoba Liberal Party in an upcoming byelection in the constituency of Fort Whyte. The seat has been vacant since Oct. 4 when Brian Pallister, who resigned the premier of Manitoba on Sept. 1, resigned from his seat in the legislature.

The 62-year-old signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1983 and enjoyed a sensational five-year run with the club that came to an end due to a contract dispute. He rushed for 5,923 yards and 44 touchdowns in just 62 career games and was named a CFL all-star four times.

Reaves’ best season came in 1984 when he carried the ball 304 times for 1,733 yards and 14 touchdowns and was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player. The club capped off the year with a one-sided victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup, ending the team’s 22-year championship drought.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant /

The Fort Whyte district is located in southwest Winnipeg and was formed in 1999 following the amalgamation of territory previously belonging to Fort Garry, St. Norbert, and Tuxedo.

The Manitoba Liberal Party hasn’t formed government since the 1950s and have been the official opposition just once since 1970. The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba currently holds power, having received 46.8 percent of the popular vote in the 2019 election.

Reaves has lived in Manitoba since professional football career ended and worked as a sergeant with the Manitoba Sheriff Service. His son Jordan is currently a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, while his son Ryan is a member of the New York Rangers. He also has two daughters, Regina and Renee.

Other retired Blue Bombers have sought public office, including offensive tackle Chris Walby and kicker Trevor Kennerd.

Walby ran for the Liberals in the 1995 provincial election, though he failed to unseat incumbent MLA Bonnie Mitchelson in the constituency of River East. Kennerd ran for federal office with the Conservatives in 2008 but lost to incumbent MP Anita Neville by six percent of the vote.

Former team president Jim Bell ran for the Conservatives in the 2015 federal election but lost to Liberal candidate MaryAnn Mihychuk in the riding of Kildonan-St. Paul.