Bob Ackles, the BC Lions’ original water boy who rose through the ranks to become President & CEO and the club’s most recognizable ambassador, had been an integral member of the club for more than 50 years before passing away on July 6, 2008 at the age of 69. Bob’s star rose quickly with the Lions, and in 1966 he was named the club’s director of football development. He was promoted again in 1971 to assistant general manager. Four years later, he was promoted to general manager, holding that title until 1986. Under Bob’s leadership, the Lions captured the 1985 Grey Cup — their first CFL title in 21 seasons.
In 1986, after 34 years with the Lions, Bob joined the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL, where he spent six seasons: three as vice president of pro personnel, and three as vice president of player personnel. He also played a key role in guiding the Cowboys back to the playoffs in 1991. Bob left Dallas following that season, but the team he helped assemble would go on to win Super Bowls in 1993, 1994 and 1996. Bob joined the Phoenix Cardinals in 1992 as director of college scouting before receiving a promotion to assistant general manager in 1994. Bob’s next stop was Philadelphia in 1995, where he was named the Eagles’ director of football administration. A year later, Bob would reunite with former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson in Miami as the club’s director of football operations, a position he held for five years.
In 2000, Bob was named vice president and general manager of the Las Vegas Outlaws. This put Bob in the history books as the only man to hold senior executive positions in the CFL, NFL and XFL. In 2002, Bob returned to the BC Lions as President and CEO, and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as a Builder that year. In 2004, Ackles was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame. Accolades for Ackles work continued in 2005 when Bob was honoured with the Jack Diamond Award by the Jewish Community Centre as Sportsman of the Year. Bob was also a Schenley Award of Excellence winner. In 2006, the Lions captured their fifth championship — the first since Bob’s return to Vancouver. In September 2007, Bob’s highly anticipated memoir The Water Boy, a candid, personal account of his life and his more than 50 years in professional football, was launched and received rave reviews across North America.
The BC Lions Orange Helmet Awards were a vision of Bob’s in an effort to connect with and recognize the achievements of the amateur football community. The inaugural event took place in 2004, and to date the Orange Helmet Awards have raised over $235,000 for amateur football in British Columbia. In addition to his work with the Lions, Bob also served on the board of directors for the Vancouver YMCA, the Canadian Tourism Commission, and for the Burnaby Mountain Sport & Medical Centre.