There are few more competitive American Football leagues in the world than the Canadian Football League. The competition is the premier competition for the sport in Canada, with all teams setting their sights on winning the illustrious Grey Cup. The CFL was officially born in 1958 following a merger between the Big Four and the Western Interprovincial Football Union.
Since then, the Edmonton Elks have been the most successful team in the CFL, as they won their eleventh title last season. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the reigning champions, as they won their ninth title last season. The Blue Bombers remain the 7/5 favourites with Betway, as of July 25, to successfully defend that honour. But, which players have achieved success in the CFL before moving to the NFL?
Brett Jones only stayed in the CFL for one season, as he was picked 16th overall in the second round of the 2013 Draft. Jones enjoyed a stellar 2013-14 season with the Calgary Stampeders, as he won the Grey Cup with the team. His season in the CFL was littered with a number of prestigious honours, which included being named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie, and also the CFL’s Most Outstanding Lineman in 2014.
Following that season, he was officially signed by the New York Giants in 2015, where he would stay for two seasons. However, he was largely a backup option during his time with the Giants, and he would later most to the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos. During his time in the NFL, he played 46 times, with 17 appearances coming from the start.
One of the most successful CFL exports to the NFL comes in the form of Joe Theisman. The quarterback enjoyed an excellent career in Canada with Toronto Argonauts between 1971 and 1973, before he entered into the NFL Draft of 1971. He was selected in the fourth round by the Washington Redskins, and his stay with the capital franchise was a hugely successful spell. Theismann would play for the Redskins for eleven years between 1974 and 1985, and he finally landed the big prize at Super Bowl XVII.
His overall stats were hugely impressive throughout his stay in the NFL, as he completed 25,206 passing yards, and was twice named in the Pro Bowl. Theismann was also named as the NFL MVP in 1983. However, his career was eventually cut short in 1985 after he sustained a career-ending injury, but he remains a very common figure in the world of NFL, as he appears regularly on ESPN and the NFL Network.
Brandon Browner was one of a few players that went from the NFL to the CFL, before later returning to the NFL. He was undrafted in the 2005 draft, but was later picked up by the Denver Broncos. However, it was during his four-year stay with the Calgary Stampeders that he showcased all his skills on the field. During that time, he was named a CFL All-Star on three occasions, and won the Grey Cup with Calgary in 2008.
His performances saw him rewarded with a move to the Seattle Seahawks, where he would win the first of his two Super Bowls. After leaving the Seahawks for the New England Patriots, he would become one of just a handful of players to win the illustrious honour in successive seasons with different franchises. However, he remains a very controversial figure, as he was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2018 after being found guilty of attempted murder.
Cameron Wake was also undrafted in the 2005 draft, but he was picked up after being a member of the New York Giants practice squad by BC Lions. His seasons in the CFL saw the defensive end come of age, as he was named the Outstanding Rookie, as he recorded 39 sacks in his two seasons in the CFL. During both seasons in the CFL, he was also named the Outstanding Defensive Player. However, he wasn’t able to win the Grey Cup during his time with the Lions.
He would return to the NFL in 2009, as he was picked up by the Miami Dolphins. Wake enjoyed a stellar run in the NFL with the Dolphins, and was named an All-Pro in 2012 after an excellent season. During his time with the franchise, he was revered as one of the best edge rushers in the league, and in turn, he was named in five Pro Bowls. He remains the franchise record holder in Dolphins history, with only Hall of Famer Jason Taylor having recorded more.
His overall record in the NFL was staggering, as he made 364 tackles, 100.5 sacks and forced 22 fumbles. After a nine-year stay with the Dolphins, he moved to the Tennessee Titans, before calling time on his career after the 2019 season. His reputation within the CFL remains high, as he was named in the All-Decade Team for the 2000s.