Over the course of his eight-year CFL career, Willie Fleming was gifted with the potential to score every time he touched the ball and Lions fans grew to expect his long runs.
Willie joined the team in 1959 from Iowa after the Rose Bowl and made an immediate impact despite his 5’9″ frame. He was the Lions leader in total offence in each of his eight seasons compiling an incredible 12,465 combined yards, second only to Geroy Simon. He recorded a pair of 1,000 yard rushing seasons (1960 and 1963), three All-Star team spots and still holds the club record for career rushing yards at 6,125.
In 1960, Willie led the Lions with a then club record 18 TDs and 109 points. Of all of Willie’s numbers however, none stands out more than his most legendary accomplishment – a pro record 9.7 yard per carry average in 1963 as he led the Lions to their first-ever Grey Cup game. His career rushing average of 7.1 yards is the top mark for any running back in the history of the CFL. Other than his unbreakable CFL record 109-yard TD run, Willie’s brightest individual moment came in the 1964 Grey Cup when he burst up the middle for 46 yards and a TD to give the Leos a 20-1 lead over Hamilton and ultimately the team’s first Grey Cup victory.
Willie was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1982 and is also a member of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. He remains among the club’s most popular players and has returned to standing ovations every time he comes back to Lions’ home games. Willie’s number 15 is among just eight honoured by the club across 60 plus years of history.