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Feel-Good Story: Stolen CFL Jersey Returned After Nearly 60 Years!

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On Wednesday, longtime Uni Watch reader Moe Khan, who lives in Montreal, pointed me toward the tweet shown above. It was posted by former CFL player Jed Roberts, who played for Edmonton from 1990 through 2002. Roberts comes from a CFL family: His father Jay Roberts, who’s now deceased, played for the Ottawa Rough Riders from 1964 through 1970. And as you can see in the tweet, one of Jay’s jerseys was stolen in 1966 and was recently returned to Jed.

I don’t know much about the CFL, but I know a good story when I see one, so I DM’d Jed and asked if I could interview him. We spoke yesterday by Zoom. Here’s a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity:

Jed Roberts with two of his kids.

Uni Watch: Tell me the story of how your father’s jersey was stolen in 1966.

Jed Roberts: Well, it’s something that I was vaguely aware of. It’s one of those CFL lore things, you know, right up there with the Grey Cup being stolen. Anyway, the story goes that the Ottawa Rough Riders were in Montreal to play the Alouettes. And during the game, some kids somehow got into the locker rooms, and then they just grabbed whatever they could, a number of the Rough Riders’ home jerseys. I’m not sure why they even had them there, because it was an away game.

UW: That was my next question, actually — I was sort of confused about that.

JR: Yeah, it’s a little bit odd. Anyway, the kids took a whole bunch of jerseys, and my dad’s jersey was among them. And the cool thing is — and I didn’t realize this when my dad told me about his jersey being taken — but this jersey is the one that my dad wore in his rookie year, in 1964.

UW: So they were still using the same actual jerseys, two years later.

JR: Yeah. I’ve got it right here. [He holds up the jersey.] And you know, to be quite frank, if they hadn’t taken it. I’m not sure that it would have survived to this day, so they kind of did us a favor by taking it.

Jed Roberts holding his father’s jersey during our Zoom call.

UW: Did your father talk about this incident at all while you were growing up?

JR: I spent a lot of time listening to him and his friends tell stories about things that happened while they were playing, and that came up a couple of times. But my dad was, you know, easy come, easy go. He didn’t really care about stuff like that.

He did have the wherewithal to put away a whole bunch of stuff for me when I was a little kid — he had a trunk full of jerseys and other stuff. But then his second wife got angry with him and put the trunk out in the yard and didn’t tell him, and it was out there for a few months and it ruined everything in the trunk. So when this gentleman kind of called me right out of the clear blue sky and said, “Hey, I have this jersey,” that got my attention, because all of my dad’s other stuff was gone.

UW: When was that? When did you hear from this guy?

JR: Maybe two weeks ago.

UW: So it was just a stranger who tracked you down and called you?

JR: He messaged me on Facebook. It wasn’t the guy who stole the jersey — it was a friend of his. He said, “Hey, my friend has this jersey. Would you be interested in getting it back?” He said his friend was having a bit of crisis of conscience and wanted to return it. So I said, “Well, what would he charge?” And he goes, “Are you kidding? It’s free.”

UW: So the same guy who took it had kept it for all these years.

JR: Yeah. And it’s beautiful, man, it’s in great shape. He took really good care of it.

Front view of the jersey.
Back view of the jersey.
The tagging.

UW: Why did the friend contact you and not the guy who actually took it?

JR: That’s a good question. I’m actually trying to follow up on that a little bit. But he lives in Quebec, and the jersey showed up in the mail, just like he said.

UW: What sorts of feelings ran through you as you opened up the package and saw your dad’s jersey?

JR: Well, the first thing I did was I marched upstairs, and I asked my son Kekoa to put it on. And he did. And then he was like, “What is this?” And I told him what it was. And he was like, “Whoa, okay.” So then we took a few pictures of him wearing it in the backyard. His middle name is Jay, after my dad. It’s too bad my dad passed away in 2011, because he would have been tickled to have this jersey.

UW: Do you get the impression that the guy and his friend are looking to return any other jerseys that were stolen that day?

JR: I don’t know for sure, but I would imagine so. I mean, if they got in touch with me, I don’t see why they wouldn’t do it for someone else.

UW: Do you have any photos of your dad wearing this jersey?

JR: No, unfortunately. The CFL hasn’t been great about curating its history, so there aren’t many photos from that time period. I do have a photo of Ron Stewart wearing that same uniform, though.

Ottawa Rough Riders running back Ron Stewart in the mid-1960s.

UW: What are you going to do with the jersey?

JR: Probably frame it.

UW: I think those are all my questions. Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you want me to know?

JR: Just that there are good people out there. I think that’s the big takeaway. I think people can get pretty cynical sometimes, so it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there are good people out there. I think most people are genuinely pretty good, and are willing to help out. And this is just one more example of that.


How nice is that? What a great story, plus Jed seems like a total peach of a guy. Please join me in thanking him for sharing his story with us.

Update: Bill Schaefer of the Gridiron Uniform Database found this 1964 photo of Jay Roberts wearing the jersey that would eventually be stolen:

How great is that? What a great capper to the story!

(Huge thanks to Moe Khan for bringing Jed Roberts’s tweet to my attention.)



Can of the Day

Oooh, such a tasty design. I kinda wish the graphics were just a teeny bit smaller, just so the edges would be more visible on the front view, but that’s a minor quibble. Beautiful can!

Comments (22)

    Not a fan of the shoulder yoke and UCLA striping, but what a great story!

    I’d wear that!

    Don’t mind the combo of yokes and stripes. I think because the helmet is a different color, it helps.

    AND… I love a receiver wearing 76!
    Yes, it looks weird at first. After a few seconds, though, I can adjust to it.

    Couple things. By 1966, the Rough Riders had mostly switched to a different type of jersey template with black becoming their ‘color’ jersey. They last wore this design in ’64, although the white version did appear in the 1965 Preseason exhibitions. Also, from 1961-68, the CFL was 99% ‘White-at-Home’ meaning these red jersey of Ottawa’s were actually the road jerseys so it would make sense for them to have been brought to Montreal.
    For those interested, GUD has now completed 1945-87 for its CFL section (shameless plug).

    Thought that was interesting too, Bill. Why would they have their old dark jerseys with them? Possible they carried a set as a backup just in case some luggage got lost?

    Love that 1987 is done on GUD. Featuring the Montreal Alouettes who only played in the preseason that year before their brief demise. The Alouettes hired Joe Faragalli to be their new head coach that year. Unexpected for him but maybe worked out best for Joe. Out of a job he ended up replacing Jackie Parker a few games into the season as head coach in Edmonton. Was holding the Grey Cup as a champion at the end of that year.

    Placekicker Dave Ridgway left Saskatchewan as was going to be the Montreal kicker. Ended up back in Saskatchewan in 1987 to have a full, long career with the Roughriders. Without his return, the Kick in 1989’s Grey Cup would not have been his destiny.



    This design of Rough Rider jersey switched to ‘no lower serifs’ on the 1s for 1963 and 1964. The original 1961 and 1962 still had the lower serifs. For those interested, 1963-64 will be tended to after I get home from taking the kids to their pediatrician appointments (probably TMI but…).

    Stories like this is why UniWatch is so great. There aren’t many other media outlets that would cover this story, but it really matters to us, the UniWatch community. Even the details like the closeup of the tag on the jersey. This is why I love supporting Paul and this site.

    What a great story. Thanks, Paul.

    That jersey matched with the contrasting helmet in the photo really looks nice. That giant stylized R looks stunning.

    Great story! And what an interesting uniform design.
    And tasty is the perfect way to describe that Primrose can. Great piece of design.

    I grok that design. Needs to be used again (unless there’s a rule against it, which I think is the case in the NCAA and NFHS, which require solid-body uniforms with only limited trim colors.

    Interesting. I heard a year or two ago that the NFHS would be passing a rule requiring jerseys have numbers of a single, contrasting (to the jersey’s base color) color, with no outline or trim elements. Was not aware of a similar rule at the college level. I would love to hear more details. From what I understand, the HS rule was to counteract teams that were making the numbers on their dark jersey the same color as the base of the jersey, with just an outline around the numbers. Such numbers are next to unreadable, especially as the jerseys get dirty over the course of the game. I think that banning the outlines altogether goes too far, and makes the game jerseys look like practice jerseys (which, I guess, doesn’t always look bad).

    Haha…“I have a friend” is the classic way the perpetrator of the deed rights a wrong without letting them know it was him.

    What a great story! Jay Roberts was probably playing in the first CFL game I ever attended. I was eight years old in 1967 when my dad took me to see what was then Ottawa’s bi-annual visit to Winnipeg to meet our Blue Bombers. Final score: Ottawa 40 Winnipeg 7. Roberts may even have scored his only TD of the season in that game.

    Great story! Love it.

    My only question would be: What were the circumstances that allowed Jed (the son) to capture 10 sacks in 1993, but he only had a total of 12 more sacks in the other 12 seasons he played CFL ball.


    Per GUD, this is the 1964 jersey of the Roughriders. Of note, Ottawa had two different helmet designs that year. The picture found is from Oct 12, 1964 game between Ottawa and Hamilton


    Also found this on CFLapedia… later years

    Hadn’t been to GUD for a while…nice to see them building out uniform history for the CFL as well!

    You mean 1964 jersey of the Rough Riders. This below was the 1964 jersey of the Roughriders ;)


    Searching my soul to find the difference between a Rough Rider and a Roughrider…other than when the Ottawa team was reconstituted, Saskatchewan objected.

    REDBLACKS (or Le Rouge et Noir) is an interesting name.

    Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum site has some colour action photos of a 1964 game between Ottawa (in red) and Montreal (in white). Didn’t see any with #76, but at least a handful of other shots. Here are a couple (first line of each is the source, second line if it works is just the larger image)



    Scott Grant Photography has b&w photos of other players in that uniform – unfortunately not Jay Robert in the red one of that era. Don’t think any of them are game action shots though. Here’s one example


    A more interesting find is this one of the football team getting ready to play basketball wearing “Dow Roughies” shirts. No idea what the story is on that one.


    Dow was a Brewery based in Quebec. I assume they were a sponsor of the team at the time of that photo.


    Wonderful story. The best part of that curious jersey is the jock tag with washing instructions. Wonderful can as well.

Comments are closed.