Ask NFL fans about the greatest passing quarterbacks ever. Certain names will come up over and over: Dan Marino, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. Those players changed the way the game is played. Passing went from a high-risk tactic to the most vital part of a team’s success. One name who doesn’t usually come up is former quarterback Dieter Brock. And rightly so.
Brock only spent one season in the NFL. Yet if the legends about Brock’s throwing arm are to be believed, he deserves a place as one of the greatest passers. Let’s look at Brock’s pro career and what he’s up to now.
Dieter Brock’s career in the CFL
The reason you’ve probably never heard of Brock is that he spent the bulk of his career playing in the Canadian Football League. The Alabama-born quarterback spent his college career at Auburn and then Jacksonville State. Upon graduation in 1974, he signed a single year deal with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a CFL team.
Brock would remain the Blue Bombers’ starting quarterback for the next nine and a half seasons, before being traded to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Over the course of his 11 years in the CFL, Brock racked up some impressive stats. He threw for a total of 34,830 yards, with 210 touchdowns and a 57.4% completion rate, according to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Over the course of his last five seasons in the CFL, reports Sports Illustrated, Brock passed for a total of 20,411 yards — more than any quarterback in any pro football league. He also racked up 37 career 300-yard passing games — more than any other pro quarterback. Brock earned back-to-back CFL Most Outstanding Player awards in 1980 and 1981. The only thing he failed to do was win a Grey Cup, the CFL’s equivalent of the Super Bowl.
Brock’s legendary arm
During his years in Canada, a certain myth grew around Brock. His throwing arm took on greater renown, as did some of his training techniques. Among other things, Brock was known for using a weighted football when working out. He would tape pellets to the balls in order to build arm strength.
If the legends were to be believed, Brock might even have been stronger than John Elway, at least in terms of how far he could chuck a ball. According to one rumor, reports by Yahoo Sports, he could throw a 93-yard pass, and a 55-yard pass from one knee. Appropriately enough, Brock’s nickname was “The Birmingham Rifle.”
Dieter Brock’s lone year in the NFL
Eventually word of Brock’s throwing prowess started to reach some NFL front offices. Finally, in 1985, he signed a four-year deal with the LA Rams. At the time, the 34-year-old was the oldest rookie quarterback in NFL history. Brock’s NFL career got off to an auspicious beginning, as he led the Rams to a 7-0 start.
That set another NFL record for longest win streak by a quarterback in his first year with a team. Not only Alex Smith’s 2013 season with the Kansas City Chiefs did another quarterback tie Brock’s 7-0. Unfortunately, however, the Rams went on a bit of a skid after their hot start, dropping four of their next six games.
Things only got worse in the Ram’s NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears. Brock passed for just 66 yards, while giving up a key fumble. The Bears decimated the Rams, 24-0. Although he didn’t know it at the team, that loss would be Brock’s final NFL game. He suffered an injury the following preseason—he had chronic back problems—and never made it back onto the field.
Following his retirement, Brock spent time as a coach at the college level, and in the CFL. In 2016, he returned to Winnipeg in order to be inducted into the Blue Bombers Ring of Honour. “I spent 10 years up here with the Blue Bombers,” Brock said at the time, “and this is what I consider my team.”