Football has a long history in Canada, dating back to the mid-19th Century. Over the years, some of the most talented players have come from the country, and their incredible feats on the field are legendary. From ferocious defensive linemen to electrifying wide receivers, these athletes have made an indelible impact both on and off the field.
In this blog post, as we keep an eye on NFL team odds, we will dive into some of Canada’s greatest football talent ever and explore why they were so beloved by fans – culminating in a ranking of who is considered to be The Most Celebrated Canadian Football Player Of All Time.
Tony Gabriel, Wide Receiver (1971–1981)
Canadian football legend, Tony Gabriel, left a significant mark on the sport during his illustrious career. The former tight end starred for both Hamilton and the Ottawa Rough Riders and was named a CFL All-Star on eight occasions.
Gabriel secured the Grey Cup twice, in 1972 and 1976, respectively, and was also honored with the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian award four times during his career. To this day, he remains Ottawa’s record-holder in both receptions and receiving yards.
Gabriel’s late touchdown catch in the 1976 Grey Cup final from quarterback Tom Clemens secured Ottawa’s victory over Saskatchewan and cemented his status as one of the sport’s greatest-ever players.
Russ Jackson, Quarterback (1958-1969)
Jackson is a household name in Canadian football and a legend in the CFL. Hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, he played an instrumental role in leading the Rough Riders to Grey Cup championships in 1960, 68, and 69, solidifying his place as a fan favorite in Ottawa.
Sporting a career that spanned over a decade, Jackson earned three Most Outstanding Player awards in 63, 66, and 69, setting impressive career records that included 24,593 passing yards and 185 touchdowns, along with rushing for 5,045 yards and 54 touchdowns.
After his playing days, Jackson turned his attention to coaching, leading the Toronto Argonauts in 1975 and 76. His accomplishments and contributions to Canadian football will undoubtedly live on for generations to come.
Lui Passaglia, Kicker/Punter/Wide Receiver (1976-2000)
When it comes to football, it’s often the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers who receive all the attention. But let’s not forget about the kickers, who play an integral role in every game. One kicker who deserves recognition is Lui Passaglia, a Vancouver native who spent his entire 25-year CFL career with his hometown club, the Lions.
Passaglia was a four-time All-Star and a three-time Grey Cup champion, with his most memorable moment coming in the 1994 championship game. With the Lions trailing by one point, Passaglia kicked a last-second field goal on his home field to secure the victory and bring the championship title to Vancouver.
Passaglia also set the league record for most seasons played, regular-season games, and regular-season points, proving that even kickers can be legendary players in their own right.
Chris Walby, Offensive Lineman (1981-1996)
Few offensive linemen in the history of the CFL can match Chris Walby’s illustrious career. Although he began his time in the league with a short stint in Montreal, his move to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers saw him become one of the elite players in the sport.
Standing at an impressive 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds, Walby was a true force to be reckoned with on the field. As part of the Blue Bombers, he was instrumental in their success, helping them to win three Grey Cup titles in 1984, 1988, and 1990.
In recognition of his phenomenal talent, he received a total of nine All-Star awards and was twice named the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman; it’s no surprise that he is considered one of the greatest ever to have played in the CFL.