Longtime CFL coach John Gregory passes away at age 84

Photo courtesy: Royal Studios. Photo edit: 3DownNation

Longtime professional football coach John Gregory has passed away at the age of 84.

Gregory began his CFL coaching career in 1983 as the offensive line coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before moving on to become the head coach with the Saskatchewan Roughriders from 1987 to 1991 and Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 1991 to 1994.

The native of Webster City, Iowa led the Riders to their second Grey Cup championship in franchise history in 1989 when they defeated the heavily-favoured Ticats by a score of 43-40 in what many still consider to be the greatest Grey Cup game ever played.

Gregory was fired by the Riders following a 1-6 start to the 1991 season and replaced by the legendary Don Matthews. Gregory finished his tenure with the Riders with a record of 35-43-1 with three playoff appearances and one Grey Cup title.

“The Saskatchewan Roughriders are heartbroken to learn of the passing of our Grey Cup champion coach John Gregory,” the team said in a statement. “Gregory led the Roughriders from 1986-1991, bringing home the club’s second Grey Cup championship in 1989, a championship that is near and dear to the hearts of all Roughrider fans.”

“He will be remembered as an incredible coach and an even better person. On behalf of Rider Nation, the club sends sincere condolences to the Gregory family, the players he coached over his long and successful career and all the people lucky enough to know him.”

He did not last long on the unemployment line as the Ticats hired him in August of that year following an 0-8 start under the leadership of David Beckman. Gregory would lead the Tiger-Cats to back-to-back East Finals in 1992 and 1993 and left the club with a 21-31 record.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of John Gregory, who served as our head coach from 1991-1994. Our condolences are with the Gregory family,” the Hamilton Tiger-Cats said in a statement.

The Ticats fired Gregory partway into the 1994 season after the team began the season 1-5. It was Gregory’s final stop in the CFL but not the end of his coaching career.

Gregory spent the next 17 years as the head coach of four different Arena Football League teams. He had two stints as the head coach of the Iowa Barnstormers where he coached future NFL Most Valuable Player, Super Bowl MVP and Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner from 1995 to 1997.

“I’m very sad to learn of the passing of John Gregory. He was a great football man and friend. I’ll always be grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to begin my coaching career 25 years ago when he was head coach of the Roughriders,” Calgary Stampeders’ president John Hufnagel said in a statement.

“I learned a lot from John and I was very pleased in 2014 when he agreed to attend the Stampeders’ training camp as a guest coach. On behalf of the entire Stampeders organization, I offer my deepest condolences to John’s family and friends.”

Former Saskatchewan Roughrider and current CFL on TSN analyst Glen Suitor, who played for Gregory during the entirety of the coach’s tenure with the club, released a statement on his former coach’s passing.

“An athlete never forgets that coach that believes in them then backs them when their confidence is at an all-time low. R.I.P. coach Gregory and thank you!”

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has also commented on Gregory’s passing.

“John Gregory was the o-line coach in Winnipeg when I was at the University of Manitoba. He encouraged me to pursue my dream of a CFL career. A remarkable man, he will be missed by the many players he taught and inspired.”