Who was the best NFL player ever to come out of the CFL?
The Baltimore Ravens signed Grey Cup MVP DeVier Posey this offseason, hoping his CFL stats can translate into an NFL passing game.
Posey was a former third-round draft pick by the Houston Texans out of Ohio State in 2012 but caught only 22 passes over his first three NFL seasons. Having been released by two other NFL teams, Posey headed north of the border in 2017 to become a featured weapon in the Toronto Argonauts passing game. He caught 52 passes for 744 yards and seven touchdowns, then caught seven more passes for 175 yards and a touchdown in the Grey Cup to help deliver the Argonauts a CFL title.
There’s a history of success stories of players returning from Canada to build successful NFL careers. And that’s the subject of this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll – who was the best NFL player ever signed out of the CFL? There are plenty of quality options, including a former NFL MVP, a former Super Bowl MVP and a Hall of Famer.
WR Mervyn Fernandez. Voted on of the CFL’s 50 greatest players. Fernandez played five seasons with the British Columbia Lions, winning both Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in separate seasons. He won a Grey Cup and was a two-time CFL all-star. The Raiders claimed him in the 10th round of the 1983 draft and then waited on Fernandez for four seasons before signing him in 1987. “Swervin Mervyn” caught 209 passes over six seasons with the Raiders, averaging a franchise-record 18.0 yards per catch.
QB Doug Flutie. Flutie began his career in the USFL with the New Jersey Generals, then spent four seasons as an NFL backup before signing with British Columbia in 1990 for the chance to play. He became a six-time CFL MVP and a three-time Grey Cup champion, passing for 41,355 yards and 270 touchdowns. He returned to the NFL with Buffalo in 1998, passing for 2,711 yards and 20 touchdowns to earn NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors and his lone Pro Bowl berth. He played his final eight seasons in the NFL with three teams, passing for 14,715 career yards and 86 TDs.
QB Jeff Garcia. A four-time Pro Bowler. Undrafted out of San Jose State, Garcia signed with the Calgary Stampeders in 1994 and spent five seasons in Canada. He was a four-time all-star and took the Stampeders to e Grey Cup championship in 1998. That earned him a contract with the 49ers in 1999 as a backup to Hall of Famer Steve Young. But an injury to Young put Garcia on the field that season and he remained San Francisco’s starting quarterback for five years, going to three Pro Bowls. He would play another six seasons with four teams, going to his final Pro Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2007. He passed for 25,537 career yards and 161 touchdowns in the NFL.
HB Cookie Gilchrist. Two-time AFL rushing champion. Gilchrist signed a contract with the Cleveland Browns in 1953 as still a junior in high school. The NFL voided the contract, forcing Gilchrist to travel north to play his football. He spent six seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts, earning All-CFL honors in five of those seasons. He also won a Grey Cup and was voted the fullback on the all-time CFL team. He signed with the Buffalo Bills in 1962 and would lead the CFLK in rushing in two of his first three seasons. He also led the AFL in rushing touchdowns for four consecutive seasons (1962-65).
WR Joe Horn. A four-time Pro Bowler. Horn didn’t play major college football, playing two seasons at Itawamba Community College, then sitting out two seasons before surfacing in the CFL with the Memphis Mad Dogs. He caught 71 passes for 1,415 yards, then became a fifth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1996. He spent four non-descript seasons with the Chiefs before signing with the New Orleans Saints in 2000 in free agency. He posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and four in a span of five years for the Saints. He retired in 2008 with 603 career catches for 8,744 yards and 58 touchdowns.
QB Joe Kapp. His No. 22 has been retired by the British Columbia Lions and Kapp also was voted one of the 50 Greatest Vikings. He won a Grey Cup with British Columbia in 1964 and took the Vikings to the Super Bowl in 1970. He was a two-time All-CFL selection and a one-time Pro Bowler. Kapp once threw seven touchdown passes in one NFL game against the Colts, a record he still shares with several quarterbacks including Hall of Famers George Blanda, Sid Luckman and Y.A. Tittle plus Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Nick Foles. Kapp has been enshrined in both the College Football Hall of Fame and the CFL Hall of Fame.
QB Warren Moon. A Pro Football Hall of Famer. Undrafted out of college at Washington, Moon signed with the Edmonton Eskimos and led them to five consecutive Grey Cups (1978-82). He returned state-side to sign with the Houston Oilers and went on to become the 10th most prolific passer in NFL history with his 49,325 yards. He went to nine Pro Bowls.
S Jake Scott. The 1973 Super Bowl MVP. Scott skipped his senior season at Georgia to play with to play with the CFL British Columbia Lions. He played wide receiver, cornerback and returned kicks. He caught 35 passes for 596 yards and three touchdowns. The Dolphins drafted Scott in the seventh round in 1970 and he took a $5,000 pay cut to play in the NFL. Scott went to five Pro Bowls in his six seasons with the Dolphins and also played his final three seasons with the Redskins, intercepting 49 career passes.
QB Joe Theismann. The NFL MVP in 1983. Theismann was a fourth-round pick of Miami in 1971 but could not come to contract terms with the Dolphins so he signed with the Toronto Argonauts. He started at quarterback for three years in the CFL, taking the Argonauts to the Grey Cup as a rookie and twice earning CFL all-star status. The Redskins traded a first-round draft pick to the Dolphins for his rights in 1974 and Theismann would quarterback the Redskins to their first Super Bowl championship in 1982 beating, ironically, the Dolphins. He would start for the Redskins for eight seasons, passing for 25,206 yards and160 touchdowns and going to a pair of Pro Bowls.
DE Cameron Wake. A five-time Pro Bowl edge rusher. Undrafted out of Penn State in 2005, Wake signed a free agent contract with the New York Giants but was cut before training camp. In 2007, he signed with the British Columbia Lions. He played two seasons in the CFL and led the league in sacks both times, collecting 16 in 2007 and 23 in 2008. That earned him a return to the NFL with the Miami Dolphins in 2009. He has played the last nine seasons for the Dolphins, collecting 92 sacks.