Bill Jessup

Bill Jessup (B.C. Lions)

Bill Jessup celebrates with a cigar after catching the 1959 pass that put the B.C. Lions into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

William Dean Jessup
Born: March 17, 1929 (Wray, Colorado)
Died: January 3, 2015 (Westminster, California)

Bill Jessup, an import from California, caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the final game of the 1959 regular season to put the B.C. Lions into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Bill Jessup (crouch)The Lions, who joined the Western Interprovincial Football Union in 1954, seemed shoo-ins to make the playoffs until a late-season swoon left them in perilous circumstances. They were trailing 8-3 in the fourth quarter when Jessup caught a pass from Randy Duncan on Calgary’s three-yard line to score easily at 3:52. The convert gave B.C. a 10-8 lead, as they desperately hung on to eliminate the Stampeders and replace them in the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

The Lions faced the powerhouse Edmonton Eskimos in a two-game, total-point series for the right to face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the Western title.

“The Edmonton team, as a whole, is a strong club with a very good offence and an experienced defence,” he said before the first playoff game. “But Edmonton can be had and I see no reason why we can’t do it.”
Despite his brave assertion, the Lions were eliminated 61-15.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound was named to the 1959 West All-Star team as a defensive back. (His touchdown reception was a rare offensive contribution. He had four caught passes all season for a total of 59 yards and two touchdowns.) He kicked one punt for 21 yards and had five interceptions on defence.

Jessup signed with the Lions days before his 30th birthday. He had been a regular with the San Francisco ’49ers of the NFL, thriving under easy-going coach Frankie Albert. Jessup chafed after Albert was replaced by Red Hickey, a tempestuous figure. “I seldom got to play last year because Hickey wouldn’t send me in,” he complained after jumping to the B.C. Lions.

Bill_Jessup jumpingBorn in Colorado, Jessup thrived as a football player at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, where he was later inducted into the sports hall of fame. He then attended Long Beach City College and then the University of Southern California, when he played for the Trojans as an end.

He was drafted in the 11th round (No. 126 overall) by the ’49ers in the 1951 NFL draft. Jessup played seven seasons in San Francisco, missing the entire 1953 season as he served in the U.S. Navy. He played for the San Diego Navy team. One weekend, he helped defeat the Camp Pendleton Marine team on a Saturday, then caught a northbound train to play for the ’49ers against the Los Angeles Rams at Kezar Stadium. Unfortunately, an admiral was listening to the NFL game on the radio and Jessup was punished for travelling beyond his permitted 150-mile limit.

Jessup spent the 1960 season with the Denver Broncos of the fledgling American Football League. He scored a single touchdown with the team.

Bill_Jessup card

Bill_Jessup card2Cards from http://www.FootballCardGallery.com

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