Jock Climie’s journey around the world to play football at Queen’s

Former Gael turned CFL star and lawyer discusses his family legacy and his passion for sport

Jock Clime set the single-season CIS receiving record in 1988 with 1091 yards.
Jock Clime set the single-season CIS receiving record in 1988 with 1091 yards.
Credit: 
Supplied by Art Martin

“We showed up that day and it was a snowstorm and they wanted nothing more than to stop me.” 

November of 1988 was special. Forget jean jackets, neon lights and pop music. For Jock Climie, it was the month his football career — and his life — took off.

He paused. 

 “They had nothing to play for except stopping me from getting the record.” 

*** 

Growing up in Lahr, West Germany — at a Canadian Armed Forces base — Climie wanted nothing more than to slap on a pair of cleats and throw around a pigskin, but he couldn’t. Europe was, and remains a continent infatuated by football — and not the American kind. 

“If you asked me at [age] five what I wanted to do when I grew up I would’ve told you I wanted to play for Queen’s and in the CFL, and that’s all I wanted to do … I just couldn’t get to it because we were in Europe,” Climie said. 

His family bounced around the continent for eight years. Bob Climie was an on-call doctor serving in the military, and the family’s living situation could be aptly described as turbulent. Serving six years in West Germany and two in England, “home” was a loose term for Climie. He didn’t know where he’d be off to next and if he’d ever play football.

Although he was born in Toronto, Climie grew up around the game.

His father was a medical student at Queen’s in the early 1970s, and up until his graduation had acted as one of many assistant coaches under the late Doug Hargreaves, a storied Gaels football head coach. 

Queen’s University ran deep in the Climie family. Jock’s mother, who also graduated from Queen’s, would cheer on her soon-to-be husband in the ‘60s from the sidelines as he donned a Gaels jersey. 

Climie recalled his father’s words that echoed around the house during his youth. “He always used to say to me that I could go wherever I want as long as it was Queen’s … that was the ‘line’ growing up,” he said jokingly.

But the chance to play professional football seemed far away — if not impossible at times.

His dream was hanging on by a thread. 

By his Grade 12 year, the family moved back to Canada and Climie got what he longed for — football. He sat for much of the year, waiting for his number to be called and learning the ins-and-outs of the game, but eventually got some playing time in the latter half of his high school career. 

As the season was nearing its end, Climie was on the receiving end of some good fortune. At the receiver position, he was getting the ball thrown to him a lot, and after getting invited to an All-Star game in Ottawa, Clime made a name for himself on the recruiting trail.

And while Queen’s didn’t know much about him, they invited him for a tryout. 

“Obviously they didn’t know what they were getting,” he said. “No one did.”

Climie arrived to Queen’s in the fall of 1985 unsure of what the future held in store. 

An illustrious career with the Gaels was capped off with a number of individual accomplishments, but in the midst of it all, he had found himself so preoccupied with academics that the CFL draft had become an afterthought. 

With a B.A. in Economics and one year of law school under his belt, his four years at Queen’s flew by.

“It came as a complete surprise to me when I found out at the end of the year that there were actually scouts looking at me for the CFL.” 

While at home, Clime recieved a phone call. It was the Toronto Argonauts letting him know they’ve taken him as their fourth overall pick in the draft. 

Suddenly years of patience and months of training had culminated into a fairy-tale story. The moment was surreal, he remembers. His dream had come true.

Throughout the next decade, Climie took full advantage of his opportunity in the CFL. He was a three-time All-Star and the recipient of the Lew Hayman Trophy — awarded to the top Canadian in the East Division. It didn’t come without its share of difficulties, though. 

In attempts to prolong his studies in law, Climie became the first ever part-time law student at Queen’s.  

“I went to the dean after I got drafted saying: ‘look, I’ve just been drafted. Football season runs through November, is there any way I could do one semester at a time?’ That had never been done before and was considered completely off the wall, but luckily he was an out-of-the-box thinker and said ‘sure’.” 

***

There were many points in Climie’s life where he could’ve quit. Whether he knew it or not, a snowy 1988 November afternoon against Carleton would make his dedication worth while. It was during this final game of the regular season when Climie broke the CIS record for recieving yards in a single season.

“By the third quarter they were lining three guys over top of me. At the end of an offensive series, I remember coming to the sideline and coach telling me: ‘well, that was your chance!’” 

“On the next series, I got back out there, made a few catches and broke the record for most receiving yards in CIS history. It was remarkable.” 

On the year, Climie tallied 1,091 receiving yards — now good for fifth behind new record holder, Western’s Andy Fantuz with 1,300 yards in 2002.

“It’s focus. It’s whatever you’re doing, you’re 100 percent focused on that. Whatever it is, I’m committed and dedicated to that,” he said. 

 

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