Napanee’s Leroy Blugh, a veteran Canadian Football League (CFL) defensive lineman and recent defensive line coach for the Queen’s Gaels, has been named to the inaugural class of the Football Ontario Hall of Fame. The two-time Grey Cup winner was officially announced as a Players Category inductee on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023.
Blugh, originally born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, grew up in Napanee after moving to Canada at the age of five. Blugh played high school ball for Napanee District Secondary School (NDSS) before attending Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, where he amassed a number of records as a member of the Gaiters football team.
At Bishop’s, Blugh was a force to be reckoned with, earning All-Canadian Linebacker honours in 1986, 1987, and 1988. In both the 1987 and 1988 seasons, Blugh was named the Bishop’s University Male Athlete of the Year, securing 12 and 10 quarterback sacks respectively across the two seasons. The following year, he competed in the annual East West Shrine Bowl in California, a prestigious post-season college football all-star game.
Following his time at Bishop’s, Blugh was selected seventh overall in the 1989 CFL College Draft by the Edmonton Eskimos (now the Edmonton Elks). In 11 seasons with Edmonton, Blugh was a reliable member of the team’s defensive line, earning two CFL West Division All-Star awards, in 1996 and 1998. He suited up in three Grey Cups during his time with Edmonton, helping the team secure a 33-23 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 1993 Grey Cup game in Calgary, Alberta.
After the 1999 CFL season, Blugh became a free agent and eventually signed with the Toronto Argonauts. After three seasons in Toronto, Blugh decided to call it a career and retired from playing just before the 2003 season.
In 2005, Blugh returned to his alma mater as the new head coach of the Bishop’s Gaiters football team. During the five seasons he spent coaching at Bishop’s, Blugh helped the Gaiters secure three separate playoff appearances. By 2011, however, Blugh was ready for another change and moved closer to home, joining the Queen’s Gaels as an assistant coach and helping lead the Tricolour to two consecutive Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinal appearances.
In 2013, the big leagues once again came calling, and Blugh returned to Edmonton, this time as the Eskimos’ defensive line coach. Blugh’s second stint in Edmonton would last just one season, however, as by 2014, the Napanee native had returned to Ontario to join the coaching staff of the newly formed Ottawa Redblacks organization.
In his five seasons as defensive line coach for the Redblacks, Blugh played an important role in helping get the expansion CFL team off the ground. In 2016, Blugh earned his second Grey Cup title — his first as a coach — after Ottawa defeated the Calgary Stampeders 39-33 in the championship game in Toronto.
By 2019, Blugh’s tenure with the Redblacks had come to an end. The defensive line coach signed on to join the BC Lions for the 2020 CFL campaign; however, the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined the league for an entire year, and that season was never contested. He would eventually leave his position with the Lions due to “personal and health matters.”
In 2022, it was announced that Blugh had returned to Queen’s University to serve as the Gael’s defensive line coach. In his first season back with the Tricolour, Blugh helped lead the Gaels to their second-consecutive OUA championship game appearance, but the team lost to the Western Mustangs for the second year in a row. While no formal announcement has been made by the Gaels, Blugh’s name is no longer listed as a member of the team’s coaching staff.
During his time as both player and coach, Blugh has earned a number of important distinctions, including a 2015 induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. With this week’s announcement by Football Ontario inducting him into its new Hall of Fame, Napanee’s Leroy Blugh is easily one of the most celebrated players and coaches in eastern Ontario football history.
Football Ontario has not yet confirmed when the inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place.