Running back isn’t a position we often associate with longevity.
While most ball carriers slow down after reaching their thirties, some manage to hit a new gear. That’s the case for C.J. Gable — No. 92 on our list of the top 100 CFL players.
Gable made history in 2006 when he became the first true freshman running back ever to start a season-opening game for the University of Southern California. He rushed 111 times that year for 434 yards and four touchdowns, along with nine receptions for 90 yards.
The native of Sylmar, Calif. got off to a torrid start the following season, rushing for 143 yards on 13 carries before suffering a strained abdomen. He was forced to undergo season-ending surgery and was granted a redshirt for missed time.
Gable would record 308 carries for 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns by his final season at USC in 2010, also chipping in 19 receptions for 166 yards and one score.
The running back went unselected in the 2011 NFL draft and wasn’t signed immediately as a priority free agent. He inked a deal with the New York Giants in late July but was waived a little over a week later.
The Denver Broncos brought him in for training camp, but he did not record any carries during the pre-season. He was released as part of the team’s final cuts.
Gable spent fourteen months out of football before a brief stint with the Nebraska Danger of the Indoor Football League. He later attended a Hamilton Tiger-Cats free agent camp in Buffalo, which is when his career finally took off.
The running back job was wide open in Hamilton following the departure of veteran Avon Cobourne, who had 124 carries for 737 yards and two scores the previous year.
Gable beat out second-year man Chevon Walker for the starting job and posted 782 yards and seven touchdowns on 130 carries in 15 games. He also had 55 receptions for 600 yards and five touchdowns, the best season of his career as a receiver. He was named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Rookie and an East Division all-star.
Gable fought injuries over the next three seasons with the Ticats, appearing in 27 out of a possible 54 games. He was having a career-year in 2017, averaging 6.3 yards-per-carry, but new head coach June Jones wanted to install Alex Green as the full-time starter.
Hamilton traded Gable to Edmonton for two unnamed players on their negotiations list. The rest, as they say, is history.
Gable rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his two full seasons in Edmonton, recording 401 carries for 2,064 yards and nine touchdowns. He was also a popular target out of the backfield, making 97 receptions for 629 yards and two scores. The 32-year-old missed just six games over two seasons, starting 30 contests.
Many around the CFL believed the six-foot, 220-pounder had decided to retire back in February when he posted a cryptic photo on Instagram. It was later reported that Gable hadn’t made a final decision on whether or not he’d return for the 2020 season, which was later cancelled due to COVID-19.
He remains a free agent, but there’s no doubt he would have been signed had the 2020 season gone ahead. Gable remains one of the CFL’s most physical running backs who is more than capable of putting up another 1,000-yard rushing season.
3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.
93. DT Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
94. REC S.J. Green, Free Agent
95. DB Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders
96. DL John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes
97. DB Taylor Loffler, Montreal Alouettes
98. QB Nick Arbuckle, Ottawa Redblacks
99. ST Mike Miller, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100. DE Chris Casher, B.C. Lions