Longtime CFL executive J.I. Albrecht dies at age 77

J.I. Albrecht, one of the Canadian Football League’s sharpest recruiters of playing and coaching talent, has died at the age of 77.

J.I. Albrecht, one of the Canadian Football League’s sharpest recruiters of playing and coaching talent, has died at the age of 77.

During a 50-year career in football, the St. James, N.Y., native brought in Marv Levy to coach the Montreal Alouettes in the 1970s and named slotback Michael (Pinball) Clemons as coach of the Toronto Argonauts in 2000.

He was the prime builder of an Alouettes team that won Grey Cups in 1970, 1974 and 1977, where he brought in linebacker Wally Buono, now coach and general manager of the B.C. Lions, and slotback Larry Smith, now the Alouettes president.

“He was a very good evaluator of talent,” said Smith, who Albrecht selected with the top pick in the 1972 CFL draft. “He looked at the character of the player as well as the talent.

“And when he liked you, he was very loyal. Maybe loyal to a fault with some players.”

Albrecht’s son Dean said his father died Tuesday in a Toronto nursing home. Albrecht suffered a stroke in 2002.

“He hasn’t been well for a couple of years,” said Dean Albrecht. “He didn’t have any giddy up, so it was difficult for him to do anything. And he was so active before.”

Albrecht had front-office stints with the Alouettes, Argonauts, Ottawa Rough Riders and expansion Shreveport Pirates and he also spent time in the NFL, the NCAA and Canadian university football.

In 1984, he led a group that hoped to put a CFL expansion team in Halifax called the Atlantic Schooners, but his main backer pulled out when government financing didn’t come through for a new stadium.

His greatest success was in Montreal, where he joined the Alouettes in 1970 as personnel director under GM Red O’Quinn and with legend Sam Etcheverry as head coach. Albrecht took over as GM for the 1972 and 1973 seasons.

Smith recalled how Albrecht brought in 17 rookies in 1972 who, as well as himself and Buono, included future stars such as Dickie Harris, Dan Yochum, Glen Weir and Junior Ah You. He also brought Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers to the CFL.

But disputes with coaches and management led to his being fired by the Alouettes and Levy took over as GM in 1974.

“As a scout, he was No. 1,” said Smith. “He aspired to be a GM, but that’s a different skill set.

“I don’t think he ever made that transition successfully. He was very opinionated. Once he got his mind on something, he went for it. But he was always fair to me.”

Buono said Albrecht first contacted him even before he joined the Alouettes and the two stayed in touch over the years.

“He was perceived at times as being a gruff, old-school football guy, but I guess that’s how it was in those days,” said Buono. “But as he got older you saw a different side of him.

“He was very proud of the players who had done well. He was one of those guys who, if he discovered you and signed you, he stayed close to you.”

After a season with the New England Patriots, Albrecht moved on to Toronto as GM in 1976, where he brought in stars like Anthony Davis and Wonderful Monds.

When Smith later became commissioner of the CFL, he set Albrecht up to work as a consultant with the Glieberman family, who owned the Rough Riders, in 1992 and 1993 and then became the Pirates’ vice-president of football operations in 1994.

During a second stint with the Argos in 2000, Albrecht named Clemons as the team’s head coach and he went on to make CFL history in 2004 when he became the first black head coach to win a Grey Cup.

The funeral is set for Friday in Toronto.

Just Posted

The Red Deer Public Library downtown branch will be reopening after a year on Monday, after work is completed on its HVAC system replacement. (File photo by ADVOCATE staff)
Red Deer Public Library opens with limited in-person services Monday

All three Red Deer Public Library branches will be open for in-person… Continue reading

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Red Deer Emergency Services responded to an explosion at a duplex on Rupert Crescent Saturday morning. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to explosion in Red Deer early Saturday morning

There was an explosion at a Red Deer duplex early Saturday morning.… Continue reading

Terry Betts, of Kananaskis, looks at the vehicle he was hoping to sell during the Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet in the Westerner Park parking lot Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet held outdoors

A big automotive swap meet was held outdoors this year in Red… Continue reading

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is set to re-open on July 2. (File Photo)
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to reopen Monday

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will reopen for visitors… Continue reading

Huzaifa (left), Saif (middle) and Zoya (right) were among the 60 or so Red Deerians who participated in a vigil for the victims of a recent terrorist attack that killed four people in London Ont. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Red Deer vigil honours victims of London, Ont. terrorist attack

About 60 people gathered at the corner of 49 Ave. and 50… Continue reading

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Multivitamins are shown on the packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian drug companies want new pricing regs delayed again until after pandemic

OTTAWA — Almost three dozen Canadian pharmaceutical companies made a direct appeal… Continue reading

Most Read