Leo McKillip



Leo McKillip wore No. 40 for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.


William (Leo) McKillip

Born: January 26, 1929
Died: December 24, 2013 (McCook, Nebraska) 


Leo McKillip designed a punishing defensive system for the Edmonton Eskimos that helped them preserve a 9-8 victory over Calgary in the 1975 Grey Cup with a fearsome defensive line nicknamed Alberta Crude. McKillip was the architect for a defense that contributed to five consecutive Grey Cup championships, though by that time he had left to become defensive coordinator with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. For some seasons, the two stingiest defences in the CFL came from blueprints drawn up by McKillip.

A U.S. college head coach, McKillip came north in 1974, fashioning a defence for the Eskimos under head coach under Ray Jauch. He handled similar chores for a season under new coach Hugh Campbell in 1977 before rejoining Jauch with the Blue Bombers.

ImageHe abandoned the CFL in 1982 to take a defensive coaching job with the Washington Federals of the U.S. Football League.

McKillip starred with the high school football team in McCook, Neb., playing both ways, as well as handling punting chores. He guided the Bisons to a 24-4-1 record over three seasons, including a state championship in 1946. He also starred at basketball and track as a sprinter and hurdler, even setting a state record in the high hurdles. The star athlete then shocked the state by joining the football program at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., instead of suiting up for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The player had already decided he wanted a future coaching career, so he chose to be tutored by Frank Leahy, the successor to Knute Rockne. McKillip was a spare on championship Notre Dame teams. When he made a late-game appearance for the Irish in a 1948 match at Lincoln, Neb., McKillip was booed by the Nebraska faithful for his treachery. 

After two years in the Air Force Reserve, McKillip began a long coaching career that included 15 seasons with Idaho State (Bengals), four years with St. Mary’s University (Gaels) near Oakland, Calif., and eight years at Dana College (Vikings) at Blair, Neb.

After he earned a doctorate from the University of Idaho, he gained the nickname “Doctor of Defence.”

McKillip was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame (1996), the Dana College Sports Hall of Fame (2009) and the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame (2011).


Leo McKillip (81) laterals the ball in a 1946 game for McCook High in Nebraska.


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