The journey to the NFL isn’t always a smooth transition. Some players resort to playing in other professional leagues only to prove themselves, which is how the Canadian Football League became a haven for players. It’s an option for someone who is trying to break through the NFL or for someone who’s near the end of their prime. While the quality of play is vastly different in Canada, it’s a stepping stone for anyone that wants to see Sunday football.
Dominique Davis Went From Atlanta To Ottawa
The quarterback was signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2012. Davis was the team’s third-string quarterback behind Luke McCown and Matt Ryan. He was waived in 2014 but signed with the Tennessee Titans later that summer.
Eventually, Davis ended up signing with the Calgary Stampeders in 2015. The East Carolina alum would also play for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, playing in one game. In 2018, he signed with the Ottawa Redblacks as the backup to Trevor Harris.
Tommie Campbell Found New Life In The CFL
The cornerback was a seventh-round draft pick for the Titans in 2011. In 2014, Campbell was released by the team. By 2016, the Pennsylvania native ended up in the CFL.
For two seasons, Campbell played for the Stampeders, starting in all 18 games with three interceptions. Campbell would sign with the Montreal Alouettes on February 3, 2018. He would finish the season with 38 tackles, one interception as well as one forced fumble in 17 games played.
Trent Richardson Was Stopped At Every Level
The former third overall pick of the Cleveland Browns is one of the biggest draft busts ever. Trent Richardson would eventually be traded to the Indianapolis Colts in 2013, but struggled through most of his time there.
The Colts released the running back in 2015, which meant he could play anywhere he desired to do so. In July 2017, Richardson found a new home with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He only lasted with the team for a season before signing with the Birmingham Iron of the AAF.
Zach Collaros Found Playing Time In Canada
Collaros signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after going undrafted in 2012. However, the quarterback didn’t make the team after training camp. From there on, Collaros turned to the CFL, signing a contract with the Toronto Argonauts in June 2012.
Following his time in Toronto, Collaros announced his intentions to sign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In January 2018, the quarterback was traded to the Roughriders. Statistically, his best season came in 2015 with 3,376 passing yards for 25 touchdowns.
Josh Freeman Retired Before In The CFL
Josh Freeman was drafted by the Buccaneers in 2009. The first round pick was poised to be the Bucs saving grace until his career fell apart. The beleaguered quarterback had stops in Minnesota, New York, and Miami following his departure from the Bucs.
Freeman would later attend a minicamp in Florida with the Stampeders and the Alouettes. He would sign a two-year contract with the Alouettes in 2018. However, in May of that year, he retired from professional football.
Duron Carter Is Keeping His Dreams Alive Up North
The son of Chris Carter entered the 2013 NFL Draft but was not selected by any team. Duron Carter had a try out for the Minnesota Vikings but wasn’t offered a contract. He would then spend two years playing for the Alouettes before signing with the Colts.
In September 2015, the team cut Carter, who then returned to Montreal to play in the CFL once again. After some issues arose with the Roughriders, Carter is now a member of the Argonauts.
Brandon Banks Is A Future CFL Hall Of Famer
Brandon Banks signed with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent in 2010. Banks mainly served as a return specialist on top of being one of the team’s depth receivers. The Redskins would release Banks following the end of the 2012 season.
He would sign with Hamilton in the fall of 2013. His breakout season came in 2017 where he set new career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Banks has over 3,000 receiving yards in six seasons with the Tiger-Cats.
Brandon Browner Won It All
The undrafted free agent out of Oregon State played four seasons with the Stampeders. Brandon Browner would become a three-time All-Star, as well as wining the Grey Cup in 2008. Afterward, the cornerback signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
He would win the Super Bowl with the team in 2013, and with the New England Patriots in 2014. Following those stints, he found himself with the Seahawks again before he hung up the cleats in 2016.
In 1999, the Saints moved up in the draft to select Heisman winner Ricky Williams. The fifth-overall pick ended up rushing for more than 10,000 yards in his NFL career. However, after some issues, Williams was out of the NFL by 2005.
The following year, the running back signed with the Argos, where he rushed for 526 yards on 109 carriers. Williams did make a return to the CFL in 2007, with a reunion in Miami and a stop in Baltimore before retiring in 2011.
Cameron Wake Has Always Been A Beast
Defensive end Cameron Wake dominated in the CFL during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The Penn State alum was a two-time All-Star, as well as the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. Wake then played for the Lions before taking his talents to the NFL and the Miami Dolphins.
Since signing with the team in 2009, it’s the only team Wake has ever been with. He’s been named to five Pro Bowls while his 98 career sacks is second behind Hall of Famer Jason Taylor.
Andre Rison Won The Super Bowl And Grey Cup
Wide receiver Andre Rison was a first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 1989. After one season, he was traded to the Atlanta Falcons. After stops in Cleveland and Jacksonville, Rison found a new home with the Green Bay Packers.
He would win a Super Bowl ring in 1997. But, his career would finish up in the CFL. Rison helped lead the Argonauts to the 92nd Grey Cup in 2004. The Michigan State alum is one of few players to win the Lombardi Trophy and the Grey Cup.
Joe Horn Played For Memphis In Canada
Joe Horn was one of those unique players who made CFL history. The wide receiver played for the league’s Memphis Mad Dogs, an unsuccessful expansion team that lasted for one season. As soon as the Mad Dogs folded, Horn turned to the NFL.
From there on, his talents would be on display with the Kansas City Chiefs. But, he became more consistent with the New Orleans Saints. For seven seasons, the Itawamba Community College alum was a four-time Pro Bowler and was named to the Saints Hall of Fame.
Fred Biletnikoff Ended His Run With The Alouettes
Fred Biletnikoff was a hero during his playing days with the Oakland Raiders. He led the team to their first Super Bowl victory in 1977 and was the MVP of the game. However, the wide receiver was released by the team in 1979.
After taking a year off from football, Biletnikoff decided to play one season in the CFL. During his lone appearance, he was a member of the Alouettes. After retiring, the Super Bowl MVP began a career in coaching.
Chad Johnson Never Stopped Dreaming
After a lengthy career with the Cincinnati Bengals, Chad Johnson went on to play for the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. His short-lived tenure with the Dolphins only lasted a few months, though. Despite nearing the end of his career in 2014, the six-time Pro Bowler signed a two-year deal with the Alouettes.
Johnson appeared in five games, mostly due to nagging injuries, while he missed two of the team’s playoff games. After not reporting to Montreal’s training camp in 2015, he sat out for the season and was released in 2016.
Joe Kapp Is A Unique Legend
Joe Kapp is the oldest player on this list. He began his career in the CFL with the Stampeders and the Lions, before making a transition into the NFL. The California alum would play for the Minnesota Vikings as well as the Boston Patriots.
Kapp would return to his alma mater to serve as head coach of the California Golden Bears from 1982 to 1986. He was the general manager of the Lions in 1990. Kapp is the only player to quarterback in the Super Bowl, Rose Bowl, and Grey Cup.
Jeff Garcia Became A Pro Bowler In San Francisco
Jeff Garcia was considered to be too small for the NFL. In 1994, the six-foot quarterback started his professional career in Calgary. He won a spot as the team’s third-string quarterback behind Steve Taylor and Doug Flutie, and would eventually become the starter.
During Garcia’s three years as a starter, the Stampeders finished with records of 13-5, 10-8, and 12-6. Following a Grey Cup victory with the Argo’s in 1998, Garcia signed as a backup to Hall of Famer Steve Young and the San Francisco 49ers.
Doug Flutie Revolutionized The Quarterback Position
Boston College’s Doug Flutie is the lowest drafted Heisman Award Winner ever. Selected as the 285th pick in the 1985 NFL Draft, Flutie played his first season for the New Jersey Generals in the USFL. In 1989, he signed with the Lions, then was traded to the Stampeders.
Considered to be one of the greatest CFL players of all-time, Flutie is a three-time Grey Cup champion. Plus, he owns the CFL record for passing yards and touchdowns in a season. In the NFL, he made his name with the Bills, even having a cereal named after him!
Joe Theismann’s Career Ended Abruptly
Before having a successful career in the NFL, Joe Theismann was an Argonaut. In his rookie year, the quarterback guided the Argos all the way to the Grey Cup. Following his two-year tenure in the CFL, the Redskins obtained Theismann’s rights from the Miami Dolphins.
The New Brunswick, New Jersey native guided the Redskins to their first championship in 40 years in Super Bowl XVII. The Hall of Famer’s career came to end following a gruesome leg injury after being tackled by Lawrence Taylor.
Warren Moon Is An All-Time Great In Both Leagues
Not many football players can say they were one of the best in two different leagues. Before becoming an NFL Hall of Famer, Warren Moon, wonn five Grey Cups with the Eskimos.
Moon was a two-time Grey Cup MVP long before the Houston Oilers gave him a contract offer. Unfortunately, he never took Houston to the Promised land. Not only is the quarterback enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, but he’s a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame too.
Johnny Manziel Has Tried Everything
People remember when Cleveland selected the former Heisman Trophy winner in 2013. “Johnny Football” did not live up to anyone’s expectations after he was drafted. The Texas A&M alum never turned into the elite quarterback many thought he would become.
That would lead to his departure from the NFL and his arrival to the CFL. The Tiger-Cats won his negotiating rights then signed Manziel. After losing the starting job, he was traded to the Alouettes.