It’s rare to see a player get a long-term contract in the CFL, even more-so if they aren’t a quarterback.
The fact that Ottawa general manager Marcel Desjardins signed defensive lineman Cleyon Laing to a three-year deal this past February speaks to just how special a player the sixth Redblack on our top 100 CFL players list is.
Laing, an Edmonton native, took up football as a teenager while at Holy Trinity Catholic High School. Not only did Laing play on both sides of the ball — catching touchdowns while crushing the opposition for losses — he also showcased his athleticism by competing on the school’s javelin, discus and basketball teams.
Laing earned a scholarship to Iowa State University and, after redshirting his first year, went on to play four seasons for the Cyclones. In 25 games, Laing notched 54 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two knockdowns, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
In 2012, the Toronto Argonauts drafted the six-foot-three, 305-pounder No. 9 overall to shore up the interior of their defensive line.
Laing was not a part of the Argos’ 2012 Grey Cup-winning squad as he returned to school to finish his degree. He officially joined the team in May 2013 and spent the next three seasons with Toronto, leading to his first all-star selection in 2015.
He began to receive attention from the NFL, resulting in a deal with the Miami Dolphins in 2016. Laing participated in Miami’s entire off-season program and ended up on the team’s practice squad to start the year. He was cut at the end of October, which led him to return north of the border.
Laing signed a short-term deal to close out the year with Ottawa, which was fortuitous for the Redblacks. Though he only played three games for the team, his impact helped elevate an already strong defence into a Grey Cup-calibre unit.
After winning an epic championship with the Redblacks over the Calgary Stampeders, Laing departed in the off-season, returning to Toronto.
Laing won another Grey Cup and continued to remind the opposition that he was one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game, earning three consecutive East Division all-star nominations (2017-2019).
Following a 2019 season that saw him rack up 27 tackles and seven sacks, Laing returned to the nation’s capital as a free agent.
When the Redblacks take the field in 2021, Laing’s impact on Ottawa’s defence will be significant. Beyond his own production, the athletic big man regularly commands double teams, freeing up teammates to make plays.
Laing is not only capable of blowing up the opposition’s run game but remains on the field on passing downs, frequently collapsing the pocket and flushing opposing quarterbacks into stunting ends or blitzing linebackers.
In 89 career games, Laing has recorded 145 tackles, 33 sacks and three forced fumbles.
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.
50. OL Matt O’Donnell, Edmonton Football Team
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