James Lee Letcavits
Born: December 1, 1935 (Massillon, Ohio)
Died: February 3, 2015 (Massillon, Ohio)
Jim Letcavits was a sure-handed receiver, a top blocker and a punter for the Edmonton Eskimos. He scored a touchdown in a losing cause in the 1960 Grey Cup championship game.
Letcavits was born in Massillon, Ohio, a city of steel plants and a hotbed of football for more than a century. The city once had its own professional team in the years predating the NFL. The local high school, named the Tigers, as was the pro team, is one of the winningest schools in the history of the sport. Letcavits was an all-Ohioan and a state champion while playing for the high school Tigers.
He went to the University of Kansas, where he was a two-time All-Big Eight selection as an end. In two seasons as a Jayhawk, he caught 24 passes for 422 yards and four touchdowns, including a last-second strike for a touchdown to tie Texas Christian, 13-13, in 1957.
The quiet-spoken, 6-foot-2, 195-pound wide receiver came to Edmonton in 1958 for the first of five seasons in the green-and-gold livery of the Eskimos. He handled punting duties in his rookie season, averaging 34 yards on 25 punts. His longest effort went 63 yards.
In 72 games with the Eskimos, he caught 142 passes for 2,429 yards for a 17.1-yard average. He also scored 13 touchdowns.
In the 1960 Grey Cup game, played at Empire Stadium in Vancouver, Letcavits completed a 68-yard pass-and-run play by catching a Jackie Parker toss for a touchdown. The score gave the Eskimos a 6-3 lead in the second quarter. It turned out to be the Westerners only score of the game, as the Ottawa Rough Riders prevailed, 16-6. Late in the game, Letcavits made a key catch on a pass from Don Getty to continue a drive, but Ottawa’s Joe Poirier, who mostly had a poor afternoon defending Letcavits, came up with an interception at a critical moment.
Letcavits completed his CFL career by playing two games with the Montreal Alouettes at the start of the 1963 season. He was cut, returning home to Ohio to play semiprofessional football. He later became head football coach at his high school alma mater. Big Jim, as he was known, also coached track and taught a woodworking class.
He was named to the Massillon Hall of Champions and the Stark County High School Football Hall of Fame.