Inducted in 1975
Montreal Amateur Athletic Association
Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy, donated
Jeff Russell's football career was all too brief, but the qualities of excellence and sportsmanship that inspired his teammates were still being remembered and honoured more than 60 years after his tragic passing. Russell was born in Colorado. His father had graduated with a degree in mining engineering from Montreal's McGill University and was in Colorado managing a gold mine. The Russell family returned to Montreal in 1909 where Jeff was schooled in some of the city's more exclusive private schools. In 1917, he enrolled at the Royal Military College in Kingston. There he played for the school's football team before graduating in 1920 with the Governor General's Award. Russell entered McGill to continue his studies in electrical engineering and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the militia. While at McGill he played for the college team coached by the famed Frank 'Shag' Shaughnessy. Upon graduation in 1922, Russell joined the Montreal Light, Heat and Power Co. He also joined the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association's football team, the Winged Wheelers of the Inter-provincial Rugby Football Union (or Big Four). It was with the MAAA that Russell emerged as a star halfback, known for his speed and elusiveness. By 1925, Russell had become captain of the Winger Wheelers and the undisputed leader of the team. However, on the night of May 3, 1926, Montreal was struck by a violent thunderstorm. He was responsible for a crew from Montreal Light, Heat and Power which was repairing a downed power line when he was accidentally electrocuted. He was just 25 at the time of his tragic death. Russell's life and football career were remembered in 1928 with the Jeff Russell Memorial Trophy. The trophy was awarded to the player who best exemplified skill, sportsmanship, and courage in the Big Four, before eventually becoming the most valuable player award for the CFL's eastern division. The trophy was retired by the CFL in 1994 at the request of the Russell family.