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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

SMIRLE LAWSON

Inducted in 1975

Member Details

Date of Birth: Ontario, 1888
Place of Birth: Guelph, Ontario
Date of Passing: December 22, 1963
Sport: Football
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1909

Grey Cup - University of Toronto Varsity Blues

1914

Grey Cup - Toronto Argonauts

Honoured Member SMIRLE LAWSON
Inspire

Story

He was the original "Big Train." Despite sharing the nickname with the perhaps more famous Lionel Conacher, Smirle Lawson was the first to earn this moniker—bestowed on him by famed sportswriter Lou Marsh—as the hard-charging halfback who starred in the first-ever Grey Cup game. The original "Big Train" rose to sporting prominence while a student at the University of Toronto. He was a halfback on the Varsity Blues football team from 1907 to 1909. The team competed in the first Grey Cup match, in 1909, and Lawson was one of the game's stars. His 50-yard touchdown run in the game's dying moments clinched the Varsity Blues' victory over Toronto Parkdale. Lawson often claimed that a medicine professor had offered to give him a perfect mark of 100 in surgery if he scored three touchdowns in the 1909 semi-final game versus Ottawa. His third touchdown came in the final minute of the Varsity Blues' 31-9 victory and Lawson found his surgery grade at the end of the semester to his liking. After graduating from Medicine at the University of Toronto in 1910, Lawson joined the Toronto Argonaut football club. He spent four years (1911-14) with the Argonauts, eventually becoming a team captain. In three of those four years the Argos played in the Grey Cup game. In 1911, Lawson lost to his old Varsity Blues teammates, but in 1914 he avenged that loss and helped lead the Argonauts to their first Grey Cup championship. The declaration of war in August 1914 interrupted both the football season and Lawson's athletic career. He served as a medical officer during the First World War, following which he taught surgery at the University of Toronto and joined the staff of the Toronto General Hospital. He was Ontario's chief coroner from 1937 to 1962. Lawson is also a member of both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the University of Toronto Sports Hall of Fame.


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