For decades, Western Pennsylvania has been known as the “cradle of quarterbacks.” Some of the National Football League’s premier pivots hailed from there, including Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Joe Namath, Jim Kelly and Johnny Unitas.
But Sarnia has its own cradle of quarterbacks – a house located at 318 Exmouth St.
For more than half a century, that little house has been a key venue in the world of Sarnia football. In the process, it has seen a surprising number of stellar quarterbacks dine at its tables and toss footballs around its green lawns, mere steps from Sarnia’s historic Norm Perry Park.
Pat Wright, the 29-year-old quarterback of the winning 2016 Sarnia Imperials, whose two uncles and a brother grew up in that house, has fond memories of family dinners and tossing the pigskin around with his brother Terry at 318 Exmouth.
It all began with Dick Waring, the star QB for the St. Patrick’s Fighting Irish in the early 1960s. In 1962, Waring then led Sarnia’s Junior Knights Football Club to both a league and a provincial championship. The Knights, comprised of all-star players from SCITS, Central, Northern and St. Pat’s were later inducted into the Lambton Sports Hall of Fame.
Dick Waring then went on to play football for the University of Detroit and Bowling Green. Returning to Canada, Dick took McMaster University to a Vanier Cup in 1967.
Brian Waring followed his brother Dick into the football annals of the Fighting Irish, quarterbacking the team for two years during the mid-60s. Brian’s son Brett also played quarterback for Northern and the Junior Lambton Lions.
Brian recalls that his Dad had built a sizeable bar and rec room in the basement of that house on Exmouth Street, and he remembers Imperials coaches and players trooping over to that rec room following games at Norm Perry Park, and even collecting pay cheques there.
Brother Randy Waring was also part of the family football legacy. He played quarterback and runningback at St. Pat’s in the late 70s and with the Jr. Golden Bears in the 80s.
Brian, Randy and Dick’s nephew, Terry Kleinsmith, also grew up at 318 Exmouth. In the early 90s when St. Pat’s football was dominant, Terry quarterbacked the Irish to three Metro Bowls in Toronto, winning two of them in the venue then known as Skydome. Now living in Sweden, Terry has played professional football in three countries in Europe.
Terry’s brother Pat Wright is now the Sarnia Imperials’ all-time passing leader. He began playing quarterback at age eight, sending older brother Terry racing down Cotterbury Street to catch passes. He played the QB position for St. Pat’s, the Lambton Lions, and the University of Western Ontario before joining the Imperials eight years ago.
Pat Wright’s great-uncles, Andy and Bob Sokol, were also CFL players in the 1950s. It all adds up to a lingering scent of football glory at Sarnia’s Exmouth Street cradle of quarterbacks.