CFL legend Mike Pringle: ‘running the ball is still a way that you can win football games’

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Mike Pringle is one of the greatest running backs in the history of professional football.

Though he enjoys watching today’s passing-oriented game, he laments the way in which hard-nosed running backs are sometimes neglected in today’s game.

“The game has changed in the way that they’re trying to make sure everybody stays healthy and try to eliminate some of the vicious hits out there and some of the things that come with those vicious hits like concussions,” Pringle said on TSN 690 radio in Montreal.

“They’re trying to get that out of the game as much as possible. The way I used to run, I don’t even think I would be able to run like I did because those are penalties now.”

The 53-year-old remembers when fighting for extra yards as a running back meant lowering your helmet. Leading with the helmet is frowned upon in today’s game, often resulting in a penalty.

“That’s what I really don’t understand,” he said. “I understand everything that they’re trying to do about the safety of the game, but for somebody that’s running the ball that’s trying to always lean forward and get as many yards as possible — and not be the brunt of the hit, but you’re going to be the one that’s doing the hitting — I don’t understand how else you could attack somebody without putting your head down.”

“I’m glad I played when I did.”

When asked about how many concussions he suffered over his fourteen-year CFL career, Pringle can’t say for sure.

“A lot of people that played over the years probably don’t realize how many true concussions they have had. I think I probably had three that were actually regarded from the trainers, but nothing really serious to the point to where I was taken out of a game or had to sit out a game because of that, so it was never to that extent. They’re more cautious now than they were before.”

Not all hope is lost, however, for the hard-nosed style of running that once defined the sport of football. Pringle calls Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans a “really dominant back” who runs with aggression.

“He’s one of the last ones. He runs aggressive and with what I would call ‘want to.’ He’s very aggressive in his running style. He’s very forceful. He dies hard, always trying to get that extra yard. I really like his game. He’s somebody that’s forcing offensive coordinators to realize that running the ball is still a way that you can win football games.”

Pringle retired as the CFL’s all-time leading rusher with 2,962 carries for 16,424 yards and 86 touchdowns.

The seven-time league all-star is one of four running backs since 1980 to be named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player and is the only pure ball carrier to win the award multiple times. He remains the only player in league history to record a 2,000-yard rushing season, which he did in 1998.

The native of Los Angeles also remains the league’s all-time leader in yards from scrimmage with 20,255. He had 2,414 yards from scrimmage in both of his MOP seasons, which remain single-season CFL records.

Pringle now owns and operates his own Max Muscle Sports Nutrition store. He was a first-ballot inductee to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2008.