First impressions last a long time and the next player on our list made one of the biggest first impressions in recent CFL memory with a little help from one of his university teammates.
Tunde Adeleke didn’t come to the CFL as a can’t-miss prospect — he was selected in the third round of the 2017 CFL Draft and, hilariously, had to sign two contracts with the Calgary Stampeders after they misspelled his name on the first one.
After playing sparingly in his first CFL game, the former Carleton Raven was given an expanded role on Calgary’s special teams unit when Calgary’s return man Roy Finch was suspended for two games.
Adeleke came into the league having posted the fastest forty-yard dash at the 2017 CFL Combine and was one of the top return specialists in U Sports having returned nine kicks for scores throughout his career. Five of those scores came in his final season at Carleton and he was an All-Canadian at the end of the year.
But despite all that, it took a tweet from Nate Behar, Adeleke’s teammate at Carleton, for the hype machine to get rolling.
On the evening of Calgary’s June 2017 game against the Ottawa Redblacks, Behar tweeted (in all caps), “If Tunde cribs one tonight [Behar] will go streaking through the streets of Edmonton holding up a cut out of [Adeleke’s] head.”
In the fourth quarter, Behar would regret that tweet when Adeleke did just that, taking a Brett Maher punt 71 yards to the house. Not long after Behar tweeted out a picture of him ordering a cut out of Adeleke’s head from Staples.
Tunde Adeleke spins out of danger and brings it to the house for the 2nd punt return touchdown this game. #CFLGameDay pic.twitter.com/xVLeUTSZaM
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 30, 2017
After exploding onto the national landscape after that return score, Adeleke spent the next two seasons in Calgary expanding his role on the team. He started four games for the Stamps in 2017, while also carving out a role for himself on special teams.
In 2018, Adeleke saw even more time on defence, starting 10 games during Calgary’s march to the Grey Cup. It was clear that Adeleke had the makings of starting player, and it came as a very opportune time for him as he was set to hit free agency in February.
Adeleke was a hot commodity on the open market and eventually chose to sign with the Ticats. From day one of training camp, Adeleke was working with the team’s starting defence.
In 2019, he started 15 games at safety and notched career highs in tackles and interceptions. His stellar play saw him named an East Division and CFL all-star for the first time in his career. You have to think that Adeleke would have picked up in 2020 where he left off in 2019 had the season not been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over his first three seasons, Adeleke has played in 48 games, starting 30, and registered 97 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, five knockdowns, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and he has scored three total touchdowns in his career. To say the future is bright for Adeleke is an understatement.
After what could only be described as his best season in the CFL with the Ticats in 2019, Adeleke and the Ticats agreed to a two-year contract extension in January of this year. Had the pandemic not hit, Adeleke would have likely continued his ascent up the rankings of the best Canadian players in the CFL. It would not be a surprise if one day he was named the league’s top Canadian, especially as his role continues to expand on a very good Hamilton team.
Adeleke’s first impression was a big one, but he has continued to make impression after impression every year and that is why he is the latest player added to the 3DownNation top 100 players list.
3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players, a project that will run through December 31, 2020. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.
61. LB Jameer Thurman, Free Agent
62. QB Matt Nichols, Toronto Argonauts
63. DB Jamar Wall, Calgary Stampeders
64. DB Loucheiz Purifoy, Saskatchewan Roughriders
65. REC Lemar Durant, B.C. Lions
66. OL Brendon LaBatte, Saskatchewan Roughriders
67. OL SirVincent Rogers, Ottawa Redblacks
68. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Free Agent
69. DB/RET Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
70. DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions
71. QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
72. SAM Anthony Cioffi, Free Agent
73. DB Shaquille Richardson, Toronto Argonauts
74. REC Kamar Jorden, Calgary Stampeders
75. OL Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
76. REC Jalen Saunders, Free Agent
77. QB Dane Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
78. REC Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks
79. RET Janarion Grant, Free Agent
80. DE Avery Ellis, Ottawa Redblacks
81. DE Cordarro Law, Calgary Stampeders
82. DB Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
83. OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
84. DB Branden Dozier, Free Agent
85. SAM Otha Foster, Saskatchewan Roughriders
86. DB Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks
87. RB John White, B.C. Lions
88. LB Avery Williams, Ottawa Redblacks
89. LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Free Agent
90. DB Richard Leonard, Calgary Stampeders
91. REC Armanti Edwards, Edmonton Football Team
92. RB C.J. Gable, Free Agent
93. DT Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
94. REC S.J. Green, Free Agent
95. DB Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders
96. DE 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