HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Multi-talented Donald McGregor disliked boring football practices, but he certainly got “a kick” out of playing the games during his interesting double-Raven career at Carleton University.
As a two-sport student-athlete in the early 1960s, McGregor was a three-dimensional football player, serving as backup quarterback to Glen St. John, a defensive back and the placement kicker, as well as a steady defenceman in hockey.
Although he was never a star player for the Ravens in either sport, he was highly respected by his peers and, being the oldest in his athletic circles, he was considered as an older brother, sharing his knowledge and experiences.
McGregor, who had his own ways of making news on campus and going out of his way to help the middle-of-the-road Ravens win a game, died March 19. He was 84.
As an outstanding athlete at Toronto’s Vaughan Road Collegiate (now Vaughan Road Academy), McGregor was the starting quarterback and placement kicker for the football team. Known as Max, he was voted Mr. Physique in 1955.
And he could certainly kick a football the old-fashioned way, using the straight-on, squared-toe approach. He once kicked a 48-yard field goal for Vaughan, drawing praise from former CFL star Joe Krol, who attended the game.
To put McGregor’s feat using his foot into perspective, the professional football record for the longest field goal at the time was 53 yards by Lou Groza of the Cleveland Browns in 1948.
For more than half a decade, McGregor held two Ravens placement kicking records: most points after touchdown in a game, Oct. 27, 1962, seven, against Ontario Agricultural College (University of Guelph); and most converts in a season, 1961, 26.
In both cases, the records now belong to Michael Domagala, who kicked eight point-after-touchdown converts in one game on three occasions (2014, 2015, 2016), and the most converts in a season at 35 in 2016.
During his playing days under head coach Keith Harris, the Ravens didn’t often kick field goals. But during one game after the offence couldn’t make a first down, someone on the sidelines yelled: “Field goal.” Harris said: “OK.”
After McGregor was successful, having kicked a 32-yard field goal, teammate Russ Bucknell was amazed and christened it “the longest field goal in Carleton history.” The official record now is 50 yards by Domagala.
As the backup quarterback, McGregor saw limited field time behind Glen St. John. But one of his more memorable QB moments came against the University of Waterloo in 1961, after St. John went down early with a knee injury.
“He was an effective quarterback,” said St. John, who spoke to McGregor about a month ago. “He was a good-natured guy… smiling, laughing and enjoying life.”
But there was no happiness after McGregor took over for St. John. He fumbled his first snap, fell to his knees to recover the ball and was crushed under a horde of tacklers. He injured his hip, left the game and went to hospital.
Then came more pain for McGregor as he “got a bill from the University of Waterloo for transportation to the hospital,” according to Dick Proctor, the football reporter at the time for the Carleton newspaper and a hockey teammate.
McGregor took offence to this bill and fired off a five-page letter as to why he wouldn’t be paying it. Two weeks later, he got a message that Carleton University president Davidson Dunton wanted to talk to him.
Proctor recalled the meeting. “Dunton asked McGregor if he wrote the letter. He said yes. Dunton said it was ‘the best letter I’ve ever seen.’ Don’t worry about the bill, we’ll handle it.” Dunton and McGregor became good friends.
In 1962, McGregor and Proctor decided to spy on the University of Ottawa during the Gee-Gees’ exhibition game against University of Toronto at Lansdowne Park. They somehow got on top of the north-side stands’ roof and took notes.
“We wanted to see what plays were working for Ottawa,” said Proctor, knowing that knowledge would be valuable for the annual Panda Game. “We were spotting, but we were never spotted on the roof.” The Gee-Gees won the Panda Game that year.
As a hockey player, he was a solid, stay-at-home defenceman for the Ravens and had great influence on his teammates because of his experiences and knowledge.
“He had seen hundreds of games at Maple Leaf Gardens (NHL, junior, senior). He remembered them and related his stories to staff and us,” Proctor said. “It was like an extracurricular class. He was an older brother to a lot of us.”
After his playing days, McGregor linked again with sports through his family.
“He strongly discouraged me from playing football because he said you’re going to get hurt and ruin your track and basketball,” said son Glen.
“Even though he was an accomplished athlete, he never put any pressure on my brother and I. He would come to all the games. He was there to watch. He had fun and loved it.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.