John E. Leake, Jr.
Born: May 25, 1933 (Memphis, Tennessee)
Died: February 18, 2014 (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
Member: Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (1997)
A college football and baseball star with the Oklahoma Sooners, Buddy Leake was drafted by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and signed a minor-league baseball contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. He wound up coming north to play halfback and quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he won a league scoring title.
“Since the football contract had a no-cut clause and was more lucrative,” he once told an interviewer, “I played my three seasons of pro football with Winnipeg.”
Leake played in 39 games for the Bombers over three seasons, playing on both sides of the ball and handling place-kicking chores. Winnipeg adopted a “revolving door” offence to take advantage of the unlimited motion rule, as Eagle Day, Bob McNamara, Bob Davenport and Leake ran a razzle-dazzle approach before the snap.
In 1956, Leake, an elusive halfback known for his jukes, and teammate McNamara battled for the Western Interprovincial Football Union scoring lead. Before the final game of the season, McNamara held a two-point lead. McNamara scored two touchdowns against the Edmonotn Eskimos in the final game, while Leake also scored two touchdowns, while adding three converts.
Leake ended the season with 103 points (10 TDs, 30 converts, four field goals, one single) to McNamara’s 102 points (17 TDs, a league best). Leake took the Dave Dryburgh Memorial Trophy as the WIFU top scorer.
A shoulder injury kept Leake out of the 1957 Grey Cup game in which the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated Winnipeg, 32-7. Leake was cut from the team by head coach Bud Grant in August, 1958. The Bombers went on to win the Grey Cup.
Buddy Leake was born in 1933 to Lucille (née Hill) and John Leake, Sr., a Memphis lawyer. Buddy Leake was an outstanding football player at Christian Brothers High School, where he won All-Memphis, All-State and All-Southern honours.
He was recruited to Oklahoma by legendary coach Bud Wilkinson. He made the Sooners football team as a freshman, scoring 243 points in his four-year career, a school record that lasted 15 seasons until surpassed By Steve Owens in 1969.
In a 49-20 demolishing of Texas in 1952, Leake, a sophomore, set three school game records for most points, longest touchdown pass reception, and most converts. He was named a Colliers’ All-American. Leake played right halfback, while left halfback Billy Vessels went on to win the Heisman Trophy. With quarterback Eddie Crowder and fullback Buck McPhail, the Sooners boasted an enviable backfield scoring punch.
Leake, who was named an All-Big Seven halfback in his senior year of 1954, also served as Oklahoma’s kicker.
He was selected in the third round (No. 29 overall) by the Packers in the 1955 NFL draft.
Leake was also a star on the baseball diamond, earning All-Big Seven honours at shortstop. He signed with the Cardinals, who assigned him to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings of the International League. He had two hits in 15 at-bats in 1955 for a .133 average.
After retiring from professional football, Leake returned to Oklahoma, where he became an insurance executive in Oklahoma City.
He founded the Oklahoma chapter of the National Football Foundation in 1984, serving as the group’s president for 17 years.
In 1996. Leake was named to the Sooners’ “Best of the Best” team, while he was also recognized as the greatest Sooner to have worn uniform No. 22.
He leaves Carolyn, his wife of 61 years; two sons; four daughters; 24 grandchildren; and, eight great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son and a daughter.