Gord Weber talks about football as instinct. He describes the way it feels to move across the field, chase someone down, line up the centre of your facemask with their chest and knock them flat and the look in his eyes and the smooth movement of his hands as he mimics the running and tackling actions while speaking makes you see it happening, thirty years later, right in front of your eyes.
In his rookie season in Garnet and Grey, Weber tallied 91 tackles. He’s quick to point out that is the regular season total. It was 1985 and Weber was part of a large recruiting class under first year head coach Jim Daley. The linebacker from West Ottawa was out to prove himself from day one.
“If you tell me you’re the best, I’m coming after you. Because that’s how I measured myself,” explains Weber. “I have always had the attitude that I was going to be successful today. I never said gee, I hope today goes well or I hope this. No, you have to know that you’re going to be successful. I still carry that attitude of self-confidence.”
“I played the same five years as Gordie, much of the time we shared duties as the two middle linebackers,” recounts Justin Malloy. “He was the kind of player that challenged everyone in drills, especially highly recruited players that came in with a bit of a reputation. He was constantly at odds with Coach Daley in an almost slapstick way, as Jim wanted him to fall in line and play the system. Truth is, Gordie probably understood the system better than any of us, and he always had a great grasp of offensive schemes... he loved stepping up into a gap and calling out offensive plays before the snap.”
By the time he graduated, most everyone was convinced. Weber was named to the All-Canadian Team in 1988 and was selected by the Rough Riders in the 1989 CFL Draft.
“I received a phone call at home from GM Dan Rambo, saying they were picking me – I was happy to be drafted, and it was cool that it was from my home town. We chatted awhile and once again I was told by him they liked my speed and intensity but wanted me to put on size.”
After reporting to camp, Weber returned to uOttawa for a senior season which saw the Gee-Gees return to the Dunsmore Cup final for the first time since 1980. Weber was named to the 1989 All-Canadian Team and earned the OQIFC Most Outstanding Defensive Player award.
“Gord was the best all around player I had the chance to play with at uOttawa,” says team mate Paul Butler. “Speed, instinct, zero fear, and a great lifelong friend.”
“When I think of Gord, I think of a few things: his ability to play sideline to sideline regardless of down and distance, his closing speed when he committed to a tackle, and his commitment to finishing plays,” adds team mate Pierre Plante. “Gord was always in a great mood, carried a positive mindset and demeanor both on and off the field.”
That impressive fifth-year performance and some quality work at the Rough Riders camp the following spring meant the Ottawa product had a roster spot. He stayed for four years, totaling 71 tackles during the last three.
In fact, Weber did more than tackle people on that hard Frank Clair Stadium surface. As a local player with a quick mind for seizing opportunities, Weber became one of the faces of the franchise in the community.
“I knew it would make a difference to the team and I always enjoyed working with kids. Pepsi sponsored our school program and it was called BE Excellent. It was about giving kids confidence to do whatever they were passionate about, and be excellent at that. I thought that was a great message and something I believed in.”
Weber garnered the CFLPA nomination for the Tom Pate Award in recognition of his contributions to the community. While the team finished third in the East and was ousted in the first round of the playoffs each of his four seasons Weber ensured he would be remembered long after his playing days. “I have had people say they remember when I visited their school. I was also up in front of CEOs and executives making speeches and I wanted them to remember me when I came looking for a job.”
It was eventually one knee injury too many that took Weber off the field. After time working (briefly) in an office, Weber moved into sales and worked in the wine industry. Along the way, he honed his hobby as a photographer. Eventually, he turned pro again – this time as a sports and fitness photographer. Among many other projects Gord is back on the sidelines at Lansdowne Park, shooting the action at Ottawa Redblacks games. He has also been the photographer for the last two Redblacks Cheerleaders calendars.
“The thing about having a job that you love is that life goes by too fast! It’s been thirty years since I was in University but it feels like five years ago.”
Gord has also leant his photography expertise back to the Gee-Gees, shooting football home games for nearly a decade. His photos capture the defensive action in a way which hints at his previous excellence there and his experience delivering the crushing hits.
“I still have a passion for the game. The game has changed, that’s for sure.” After discussing the impressive strength and conditioning regimens, he points out the freedom that receivers have to come through the middle of the field as another example. “When I played, if you were on the field you were getting hit.”