September 18, 2008 / 7:51 PM / 9 years ago

CFL's "Little General" dies at 69

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Ron Lancaster, the legendary Canadian football quarterback and coach whose on-field skill and small stature earned him the nickname “Little General,” has died, the league said on Thursday. He was 69.

<p>Then Hamilton Tiger-Cats coach Ron Lancaster talks to reporters during a coach's news conference in Winnipeg November 18, 1998. Buono and his Stampeders will meet the Calgary Stampeders in the 86th Grey Cup November 22. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>

Lancaster, an American-born hall of famer who won Canadian Football League championships as a player with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, was diagnosed with lung cancer this summer and had been undergoing treatment.

During his 19-year playing career, the 5-foot, 5-inch tall Lancaster completed 3,384 passes for 50,535 yards and 333 touchdowns. He was named the CFL’s most outstanding player in 1970 and 1976.

Born in Fairchance, Pennsylvania, scouts deemed him too small to be a successful quarterback at big U.S. colleges, so he played for Wittenburg University in Ohio. In 1960, he was drafted by the CFL’s Ottawa franchise and was traded to Saskatchewan three years later.

Over the next 16 years, with Lancaster as their pivot and the likes of running back George Reed and flanker Hugh Campbell on the team, the Roughriders were an offensive force in the league. Lancaster led the team to its first Grey Cup win in 1966.

In 1980, after four years coaching the club, he turned to broadcasting for several years, before joining Edmonton as coach in 1991, then signing on as coach in Hamilton in 1997. There, he led the team to its last CFL championship in 1999.

Lancaster was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; Editing by Peter Galloway

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