3-time Grey Cup champion Carl Crennel dead at 74

CANADA - NOVEMBER 22: Carl Crennel. Graham Bezant/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Carl Crennel, the hard-hitting linebacker who won three Grey Cups over 11 CFL seasons, has died.

The Montreal Alouettes, one of five CFL teams Crennel played for, confirmed Crennel’s death Tuesday at the age of 74. The cause of death was not immediately known.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Carl Crennel,” the Alouettes said in a statement. “Our condolences go out to his family, friends, and former teammates.”

Crennel played his college football at West Virginia. He was captain of a Mountaineers team that posted a 10-1 record in 1969 and defeated South Carolina 14-3 in the Peach Bowl, with Crennel earning MVP honours.

He was taken in the ninth round, No. 209 overall, in the 1970 NFL draft by Pittsburgh. He played one season with the Steelers before joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1971.

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After appearing in five games with Winnipeg, Crennel joined the Alouettes in 1972. He remained with Montreal until 1979, helping the franchise win two Grey Cups (1974, ’77).

Crennel was named an East Division all-star three times during his time with Montreal. The Alouettes dealt Crennel to Edmonton in 1979 to make room for Tom Cousineau, the former Ohio State All-American linebacker who had been selected first overall in the ’79 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills.

Edmonton defeated Montreal 17-9 in the ’79 Grey Cup. Cousineau was named the game’s top defensive player.

Crennel’s stay with Edmonton was brief. He was dealt to Hamilton in 1980 and finished his CFL career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1981.

In all, Crennel appeared in six Grey Cups. The losses were in 1975 and ’78 with Montreal and 1980 with Hamilton.

In 1998, Crennel was inducted into the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame. The native of Lynchburg, Va., was a three-year starter at the school at middle guard (1967-69).

Crennel didn’t take up football until his junior year of high school. In 1969, he earned the John Russell Award as West Virginia’s top defensive player and in 1970 appeared in the Hula Bowl.

Crennel is also a member of the WVU all-time football team.

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Crennel appeared in 150 career CFL games, registering 14 interceptions while recovering 13 fumbles. He was also credited with two sacks in 1981 with Saskatchewan.

The CFL did not record sacks as an official stat until 1981.

The six-foot-one, 225-pound Crennel was the younger brother of Romeo Crennel, the former longtime NFL assistant coach who also served as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns (2005-2008) and Kansas City Chiefs (2012). Romeo Crennel, 76, was also the interim head coach of the Houston Texans during the final 12 games of the 2020 campaign.

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