3DownNation top 100 CFL players: No. 50 OL Matt O’Donnell, Edmonton Football Team

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Richard Sligh. Ever heard of him? Neither had I until I sat down to write this article.

Sligh is the tallest professional football player of all-time. The native of Newberry, S.C. was a tenth-round selection of the Oakland Raiders in 1967 and played one season for the team at defensive tackle. He passed away in December 2008 at the age of 64.

Richard Sligh, fourth row (73). Photo courtesy: Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders

The second-tallest player in the history of professional football is Matt O’Donnell, who currently plays for the Edmonton Football Team.

O’Donnell was a second-round pick of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2011 out of Queen’s University. The two-time U Sports All-Canadian didn’t immediately sign with the Riders due to interest from a team south of the border.

Believe it or not, that team wasn’t an NFL franchise. It was the Boston Celtics of the NBA, who showed interest in the six-foot-eleven, 350-pound offensive lineman despite the fact that he hadn’t played basketball since high school.

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

O’Donnell worked out for the Celtics and Toronto Raptors, though no contract was offered by either team. Then the NFL came calling with the Cincinnati Bengals signing the native of Comox, B.C. to a contract.

His CFL rights were traded from Saskatchewan to Edmonton in September 2012 in exchange for receiver Greg Carr. Carr was six-foot-six, which unofficially made the deal the tallest trade in league history. The receiver also recorded just 16 receptions as a member of the Riders, also making it one of the most lopsided trades in CFL history.

Waiting game: Matt O’Donnell trade shows it takes time to declare winners and losers

O’Donnell signed with Edmonton in September 2012 and has remained with the club since, outside of a second brief stint with the Bengals in 2015. He became a full-time starter in his second year with the team and has dressed for 116 career games.

The two-time West Division all-star (2017, 2019) and one-time league all-star (2019) is capable of starting at both guard and tackle, providing Edmonton with ratio flexibility. The team allowed just 25 sacks last season, by far the fewest in the CFL.

The 31-year-old was set to make approximately $235,000 in 2020, which would have made him the second highest-paid offensive lineman in the CFL. He is slated to become a free agent in February 2021.

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.

51. REC Kyran Moore, Saskatchewan Roughriders
52. SAM Kenny Ladler, Free Agent
53. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
54. SAM Dexter McCoil, Free Agent
55. OL Sean McEwen, Calgary Stampeders
56. REC Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes
57. DB Greg Reid, Montreal Alouettes
58. DL Mike Moore, Edmonton Football Team
59. OL Ryker Mathews, B.C. Lions
60. DB Tunde Adeleke, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
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, Edmonton Football Team
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

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.