You might only know one name in the CFL – Johnny Manziel. Which means that you are likely a new fan of the league. As a Canadian company (we are based in Edmonton – home of the Eskimos) that has had the privilege of creating championship rings for many US college and high school football teams (among other leagues and sports), we are quite happy to see the increased exposure to the league. In case you missed it, we have talked about why you should consider watching the CFL in the past. And while Johnny Football is an exciting player – there has been lots of other interesting storylines and players in the CFL over the years. We have put together a list of other names and storylines that you should know about the CFL, that is, besides Johnny Manziel.
1) The player that’s been a member of every CFL team
Quarterback Kevin Glenn has been a member of all 9 CFL teams over his 17-year career. He has played at least a snap (regular season or pre-season) for 7 of those 9 teams. His career has seen him spend two stints with both the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. His longest stay with one team at a time (Winnipeg) was four years, his shortest stay with a team (Toronto Argonauts) was for mere hours. This year, when the Edmonton Eskimos signed him in the off-season, he completed his CFL tour so to speak. Surprisingly, the 38-year-old has never won a Grey Cup.
2) The man who owned two teams – at once
From 2010 to 2015, David Braley owned both the BC Lions and the Toronto Argonauts – at the same time. From 2010 to 2013 the league consisted of only 8 teams (the expansion team Ottawa REDBLACKS played their first game in 2014). This means that Braley owned 25% of the league. Pretty good odds to win the Grey Cup, right? The Lions won it all in 2011 and the Argonauts won it all in 2012. To combat match fixing, the Lions and Argonauts would play each other early in the season during Braley’s reign of owning both. Before owning both of these teams – Braley owned the Hamilton Tiger-cats. Meaning he’s owned 30% of the CFL teams at some point in his lifetime. Braley still owns the Lions.
3) The player who is a sibling of an NHL star
You might recognize the name Getzlaf. Anaheim Ducks star, Ryan Getzlaf is kid brother to former CFL star Chris Getzlaf. Chris played in 11 seasons for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Eskimos. He just announced his retirement this year.
4) Big names who did well in the CFL
Cameron Wake, Jeff Garcia, Warren Moon, Doug Flutie – there is a long list of recognizable NFL names that did well in their CFL career. Most of these players spent time in the CFL before they got their NFL break. This isn’t to say that the CFL is just a stepping stone to the NFL, as there have been lots of good football players that have spent their entire career in the Canadian league.
5) Big names that did not do so well in the CFL
Vince Young, Ricky Williams, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, Trent Richardson, Michael Sam – there’s also a long list of big name NFLers who didn’t do so well in the CFL. Of the ones we listed, Ismail is the only one that began their career in the CFL, when the Toronto Argonauts (then owned by a group that included actor John Candy and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky) gave him a big payday to pick the CFL over the NFL. He also had the best CFL career out of the bunch – winning one Grey Cup despite only honouring half of his 4-year deal. Ricky Williams also enjoyed moderate success in the CFL, but was injury-plagued.
6) The current elite players
If you are planning to start watching the CFL this year and wondering who else to watch around the league besides Johnny Manziel – there’s plenty of talent. At QB, Bo Levi Mitchell (SMU/Eastern Washington product), Ricky Ray (Sacramento State product) and 2017 Most Outstanding Player Mike Reilly (Central Washington product) are the class of the CFL.
At receiver, SJ Green (University of South Florida product), Greg Ellingson (FIU product), Duron Carter (FAU product and son of former NFLer Cris Carter), Bryan Burnham (University of Tulsa product) and former Washington Redskin Brandon Banks (Kansas State product) are just some of the big names this season in the CFL.
At RB, last year’s rookie of the year James Wilder Jr. (Florida State product), William Powell (Kansas State product) and Jeremiah Johnson (University of Oregon product) join Canadians Andrew Harris and Jerome Messam to make up the core of elite running backs. The former highly touted Green Bay Packer Alex Green (University of Hawaii product) is another RB in the league to watch.
On defense, Charleston Hughes (Northwood University product), Solomon Elimimian (Hawaii product), Alex Singleton (Montana State product) and Ed Gainey (Appalachian State product) are just some of the stars around the league.