Grey Cup-winning QB Jim Van Pelt passes away at age 86

Photo courtesy: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Jim Van Pelt, a multifaceted player who led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a Grey Cup in 1958, has passed away at the age of 86.

The Chicago native played two seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1958-59), leading the team to a championship in his rookie season. He scored 22 points in the 1958 Grey Cup — two touchdowns, two field goals, and four converts — which was a new record at the time. The total remains second all-time behind Don Sweet who scored 23 points in the 1977 Grey Cup as a member of the Montreal Alouettes.

Van Pelt started 25 games for the Blue Bombers, compiling a 20-5 record. He completed 54.3 percent of his passes for 4,151 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 25 interceptions. His career quarterback efficiency rating of 91.3 was virtually unprecedented for the era in which he played.

The Michigan product also led the league in field goal percentage in 1958, connecting on 8-of-13 attempts (61.5 percent). He finished his career 16-of-28 on field goals (57.1 percent), 60-of-78 on converts (76.9 percent), an average of 38.4 yards on punts, and an average of 52.2 yards on kickoffs.

Van Pelt completed a 107-yard pass to Ernie Pitts in 1958, which at the time was the second-longest completion in league history. It is now tied for seventh all-time having most recently been surpassed by a 108-yard connection between Michael Reilly and Vidal Hazelton in 2017.

The five-foot-eleven, 187-pounder also set a new CFL record in 1959 when he threw for seven touchdowns in a game versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The record was tied twice by Toronto’s Tobin Rote the following year and surpassed in 1962 when Hamilton’s Joe Zuger threw eight touchdown passes in a single game.

Van Pelt was Winnipeg’s nominee for Most Outstanding Player in 1959 and was named a West Division all-star. He was unable to start the Grey Cup that year due to injury, giving way to future Hall of Fame quarterback Ken Ploen. Van Pelt was drafted into the U.S. Air Force shortly thereafter, ending his professional football career.