Wayne Smith, ex-CFL powerhouse who once played with broken arm, dies at 66

Wayne Smith, a CFL defensive all-star in the 1970s from Halifax who once played a Grey Cup game with a broken arm, died this weekend at the age of 66.

Smith played 12 years in the Canadian Football League and was a two-time Grey Cup champion. He was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.

"The thing that struck me about Wayne is that he was such an amazing athlete," said former Ottawa Rough Riders teammate Bill Robinson. "He was a really gifted, natural athlete who was extremely fast, one of those kind of guys who had NFL-type skills."

The 6-4" 230-pound Smith played for five CFL teams. His two all-star campaigns were part of his seven seasons with the Rough Riders. He was the leader of a rugged defensive unit nicknamed "capital punishment" by Ottawa sports writers.

"He was a stellar player on that defence," said Robinson. "He was a real team guy too, he was a real unique character but was always really well liked by his teammates."

Never played high school or college football

The route Smith took to play professionally was different from most players.

He never played high school or college football. In the late 1960s Smith was a teenager playing for a senior football team named the Halifax Buccaneers.

Playing against men much older than him gained him some attention and it wasn't long before he was referred to CFL scouts by former Saint Mary's University athletic director Bob Hayes.

Joined Rough Riders at 19 years old

"He had no experience at all other than playing for the Buccaneers," said Ricky Smith, Wayne's older brother. "Actually it was Montreal who had called him first to come up for a tryout but in the meantime Ottawa had contacted him also, so he ended up in Ottawa."

Smith was only 19 years old when he cracked the Ottawa lineup. He was a Grey Cup winner in his rookie season and got to lift the trophy two months before he turned 20.

"We were at that game and that will always stand out for me about my brother," said Ricky Smith.

Four years later Smith led Ottawa to another Grey Cup title.

In that 1973 season he suffered a broken arm, but wore a cast in the Grey Cup and was in on the tackle that sidelined Edmonton quarterback Tom Wilkinson at a pivotal point in the game.