Former Edmonton RB, outspoken NFL GM Bill Tobin passes away at 83

Photo courtesy: Cincinnati Bengals

Former CFL running back and iconic NFL executive Bill Tobin has passed away at the age of 83.

The native of Burlington Junction, Mo. was a 14th-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1963 NFL Draft, but began his career with the AFL’s Houston Oilers. He moved to Canada in 1964 and played two seasons with the Edmonton Football Team, appearing in 16 games. He carried 127 times for 665 yards and six touchdowns with the Green and Gold, adding 11 receptions for 193 yards and another major.

Following his departure from the CFL, Tobin was hired as an area scout by the Green Bay Packers. He would soon move over to the rival Chicago Bears, where he would play a hand in crafting their legendary 1985 Super Bowl-winning team. He is credited with the decision to draft six Hall of Fame members of that squad, including running back Walter Payton, linebacker Mike Singletary, defensive ends Dan Hampton and Richard Dent, defensive tackle Steve McMichael, and offensive tackle Jim Covert.

Tobin went on to serve as the Bears’ general manager from 1987 to 1992, before landing the same job with the Indianapolis Colts in 1994. Though his tenure there lasted just a few seasons, he added two more Hall of Fame draft picks to his resume with the selections of running back Marshall Faulk and wide receiver Marvin Harrison Sr. He later spent two seasons as director of player personnel with the Detroit Lions and has served as an area scout and consultant with the Cincinnati Bengals since 2003.

Despite his impressive record of player selections, Tobin is best remembered for a heated television exchange during the 1994 NFL Draft. After he was criticized for selecting linebacker Trev Alberts with the fifth overall selection instead of quarterback Trent Dilfer, the then-Colts GM took a shot at ESPN draftnik Mel Kiper Jr. live on air. The memorable clip is regarded as a watershed moment that helped transform the draft from a niche event into a true reality TV spectacle.

Tobin was predeceased by his brother, Vince, who spent five seasons as defensive coordinator for the B.C. Lions before a long NFL career. His son, Duke, remains the director of player personnel for the Bengals.