Incredibly popular because of his looks and his standout talent as a running back, Willard Reaves has taken his rightful place in the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. Born in Flagstaff, Ariz., Reaves became a multisport star in high school and at Northern Arizona University, where he became the first non-senior to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season. In 1979 and 1980, he was named a first team All American (second team in 1981). Two years later, he took the Canadian Football League by storm. In 1983, he won the Jackie Parker Trophy as the CFL’s Western Rookie of the Year and was the leading rusher in the West Division. The next season, his league-wide dominance was rewarded with the Schenley Award as most outstanding player in the CFL.
He was named offensive star of the year, named to the league’s first all-star team and he helped lead the Bombers to their first Grey Cup title since 1962. The all-star selections would continue into the late 1980’s. He set records for most games with 100 yards rushing in one season (10) and most consecutive games hitting the century mark in a game (8). In 1984, he ran for 1,733 yards in the 16-game season on 304 carries, a club record. He tied a CFL record with four touchdowns in one game and tied another club mark with 18 TDs in a campaign. His 221 yards rushed in one game, 44 TDs in his career and club record 1,158 carries in his tenure in a Blue Bomber uniform are still on the team’s record books.
To date, Reaves still leads the Bombers in most 200-yard rushing games (2), most seasons leading the league in rushing yards (3) and most 100-yard rushing games in a career (26). In 1990, two years after leaving the Bombers with 5,923 rushing yards in five seasons for a shot in the NFL, Reaves became a Canadian citizen and retired from pro ball. He was inducted into the Blue Bomber Hall of Fame and Northern Arizona’s Hall of Fame in 1992.
b. August 17, 1959