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Five Football Greats Who Excelled in the CFL and NFL

Every college football star dreams of becoming a professional player who is adored by fans and earns untold riches that only top-tier athletes enjoy. It is common for football players to turn out for either Canadian Football League (CFL) or National Football League (NFL) franchises. Still, some players are so supremely talented that they manage to play in both competitions during their careers. Here are five of the best players who have plied their trade in both the CFL and NFL over the years.

Warren Moon – Quarterback

Warren Moon (pictured) is a football legend regardless of whether you follow a CFL or NFL team. Moon is currently the only player in history to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, which is an incredible achievement.

Moon played college football for the University of Washington, throwing 3,465 passing yards and 12 touchdowns across three seasons. Moon had a rifle-like arm, and anyone who enjoys betting on football knows such players can win you football games, but those around him convinced Moon he would only be a late-round pick in the NFL draft, leading to limited opportunities.

Six weeks before the 1978 NFL Draft, Moon signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. Moon spent six seasons with the Eskimos, completing 1,369 passes for 21,228 yards, and an incredible 144 touchdowns.

In 1984, Moon was traded to the Houston Oilers and installed as the Oilers’ starting quarterback. After ten seasons in Houston, Moon played two campaigns for the Minnesota Vikings, and two for the Seattle Seahawks before ending his career in 2000 after two years as a backup for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Moon’s NFL statistics are impressive. They include 3,988 completions, 49,325 yards, and 291 touchdowns. Moon proves anyone can make it in both of football’s elite-level competitions.

Doug Flutie – Quarterback

Quarterback Doug Flutie is one of the rare players who started their professional career in the NFL, switched allegiances to the CFL, and returned to the NFL.

The Los Angeles Rams selected Flutie as the 285th overall pick in the 11th round of the 1985 NFL Draft before trading him to the Chicago Bears. It didn’t work out for Flutie in Chicago, and he only played four games (starting once) in one-and-a-half season.

The Bears traded Flutie to the New England Patriots in 1987 and he enjoyed more game time after crossing picket lines to play during the NFL Players Association strike. He spent the 1988 season as a backup and decided to move north of the border to the BC Lions.

Flutie spent eight seasons in Canada, playing for the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, and the Toronto Argonauts. From 126 starts, Flutie racked up 41,355 yards and 270 touchdowns, including a CFL record of 48 passing touchdowns in the 1994 season.

He returned to the NFL in 1998 with the Buffalo Bills where he spent three seasons. Spells with the San Diego Chargers and the New England  Patriots followed before Flutie hung up his helmet in 2005.

Ricky Williams – Running Back

Ricky Williams is a College Football Hall of Famer who played 11 seasons in the NFL and one in the CFL. After putting up 6,592 rushing yards (6.2 average) and 75 touchdowns in four seasons for the Texas Longhorns, Williams was highly sought after in the 1999 NFL Draft. The New Orleans Saints selected Williams as the fifth overall pick and threw him straight into their starting lineup.

Williams rushed for 3,129 yards and 16 touchdowns over three seasons before the Miami Dolphins pulled out all the stops to sign him. Williams was incredible for the Dolphins in 2002, ending the regular season with a career-best and league-best 1,853 yards.

However, after failing several drug tests, Williams announced his early retirement in 2004 but returned the following season. He failed to reach the same dizzy heights in 2005 and found himself suspended in 2006 due to another drug violation.

Williams became a Toronto Argonauts player during his NFL suspension, signing a then-record C$340,000 one-year deal. Despite an injury-hit season, Williams rushed 109 times for 529 yards and two touchdowns.

Williams returned to Miami in 2007 and spent four more seasons there before signing for the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. After the 2011 season, Williams officially retired for good.

Joe Theismann – Quarterback

Joe Theismann could have been one of the greatest ever quarterbacks had a gruesome injury not prematurely ended his playing career. The New Jersey native played college football for Notre Dame Fighting Irish, where he was excellent.

Despite his glistening college career, Theismann was selected 99th overall in the 1971 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, but he never signed a contract; instead, he signed with the Toronto Argonauts. The Dolphins’ loss was the Argonauts’ gain, as he threw 6,093 yards and 40 touchdowns in three seasons.

The then-Washington Redskins acquired the rights to Theismann in 1974, and after spending four seasons as a backup, he became the starting quarterback in 1979. By the time he retired, Theismann had 25,206 yards from 2,044 completions and 160 touchdowns in a Washington uniform. Unfortunately, Theismann suffered a compound fracture of his right leg after being sacked in a game against the New York Giants. The injury was so severe that it prevented Theismann from stepping onto the football field again.

Cameron Wake – Defensive End/Linebacker

Defensive players do not always receive the same recognition as their offensive counterparts, but Cameron Wake is an exception. Wake initially went undrafted in 2005 before joining the New York Giants. Two months later, the Giants released Wake.

Wake signed a free-agent contract with the BC Lions and made an immediate impact. He started all 18 games during his rookie season and recorded 72 combined tackles and 16 sacks! Wake played all 18 games the following year and enjoyed 65 combined tackles and 23 sacks.

Those figures did not go unnoticed, with 17 NFL teams declaring their interest in Wake. It was the Miami Dolphins whom Wake signed for, and he spent ten successful seasons in Florida, ending his Dolphins career with 360 combined tackles and 98.0 sacks.

Wake signed a three-year, $23 million contract with the Tennessee Titans in March 2019 but only played nine games (starting nine) before calling time on an illustrious career.

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Priyanka Chaudhary
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