He grew up in Manitoba, Canada, where he played guard at the University of Manitoba. Lear started his professional football career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League and helped the team to two Grey Cup victories. In 1944, he signed with the Cleveland Rams of the NFL becoming the first Canadian-trained player to play in the NFL. He would play a total of 4 seasons in the NFL. After his stint in the NFL, Lear returned to Canada where he coached the Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders to an undefeated season in 1948.
Lear was elected into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1974.