O Canada: the NFL’s all-time roster of Canadians (defence)

Photo courtesy: Dallas Cowboys

Canucks are taking the NFL by storm, which means it’s time to look at the historical context of Canadians playing south of the border.

This list will soon feature names like Claypool, Holland, and St-Juste, but for now we look at names from the past — some dating back almost a century — to create the all-time NFL roster of Canadians.

This article lists only the defence and special teams. For the offence, click here.

Editor’s note: players at the same position are listed in alphabetical order.

Defensive Tackle — Tyrone Crawford (2012-2020), Arnie Weinmeister (1948-1953)

Crawford was selected No. 81 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft following a standout career at Boise State. The native of Windsor, Ont. started 79 career games for the Cowboys, recording 194 total tackles, 25 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries before announcing his retirement in March 2021.

Weinmeister was a four-time Pro Bowl selection with the New York Giants who appeared in 71 career NFL games. The native of Rhein, Sask. finished his career with the B.C. Lions (1954-1955) and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.

Honourable mentions: Colin Cole (2003-2015), Rob Meier (2000-2008), David Onyemata (2016-present), Gary Pettigrew (1966-1974)

Defensive End — Harald Hasselbach (1994-2000), Israel Idonije (2003-2013)

Hasselbach was raised in B.C. and played four seasons with the Calgary Stampeders prior to his departure for the NFL. The six-foot-six, 285-pound lineman recorded 154 total tackles, 17.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles in 112 games with the Denver Broncos, capturing back-to-back Super Bowls (XXXII, XXXIII).

Idonije was a star at the University of Manitoba where he used his six-foot-six, 275-pound frame to dominate Canada West. He joined the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2003 and developed into an impact player, recording 288 total tackles, 52 tackles for loss, 29 sacks, and eight forced fumbles.

Honourable mentions: Markus Koch (1986-1991), Joe Rooney (1923-1928), Brent Urban (2014-present)

Photo courtesy: Philadelphia Eagles

Linebacker — Brian Forde (1988-1991), Andy Mulumba (2013-2017), Alex Singleton (2019-present)

Forde was a special teams dynamo for the New Orleans Saints who dressed for 64 games over four seasons. The Montreal native recorded two career fumble recoveries and started one game in 1989, making a tackle for a safety.

Mulumba signed with the Green Bay Packers after going unselected in the 2013 NFL Draft and made 30 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack as a rookie. He suffered a torn ACL early the following year and was never the same in stints that followed with the Chiefs, Raiders, and Rams.

Singleton joined the Philadelphia Eagles following a standout three-year career with the Calgary Stampeders during which he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. He became a starter in 2020 and finished the season with 120 total tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, and one interception.

Honourable mentions: Cory Greenwood (2010-2014), Glen Young (1995-1996)

Cornerback — Jason David (2004-2009), Joe Watt (1947-1949)

David was a fourth-round selection of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2004 NFL Draft and quickly became a starter for the team. The Edmonton native recorded 225 total tackles, 55 knockdowns, 16 interceptions, five fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble in 75 career games and won Super Bowl XLI.

Watt played only 26 career NFL games but managed to record seven interceptions and two fumble recoveries as a member of the Boston Yanks, Detroit Lions, and New York Bulldogs. The Montreal native attended high school in Brooklyn, N.Y. before playing his college football at Syracuse.

Honourable mentions: Tevaughn Campbell (2019-present), Davis Sanchez (2001-2002)

Safety — O.J. Atogwe (2005-2012), Paul Duhart (1944-1945)

Atogwe was a third-round pick of the St. Louis Rams following a standout career at Stanford. The native of Windsor, Ont. grew into one of the NFL’s hardest-hitting safeties, recording 454 total tackles, 48 knockdowns, 25 interceptions, 16 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, and 5.5 sacks.

Duhart was a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers after serving one year as a member of the U.S. Army in World War II. His career was ended prematurely due to injury, but the Montreal native was productive as a passer, ball carrier, and defensive back.

Honourable mention: Mark Montreuil (1995-1997)

Placekicker — Mike Vanderjagt (1998-2006)

The native of Oakville, Ont. bounced around a number of teams in the CFL and AFL before getting a shot with the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. He led the league in scoring in 1999 and made the Pro Bowl in 2003 after becoming the first placekicker in NFL history to have a perfect season. He was the most accurate placekicker in league history at the time of his retirement.

Honourable mentions: Steve Christie (1990-2004), Roy Gerela (1969-1979), Eddie Murray (1980-2000), Shaun Suisham (2005-2014)

Punter — Mitch Berger (1994-2009)

Berger was a sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1994 NFL Draft who played 187 career games with eleven different teams. The native of Kamloops, B.C. was twice named to the Pro Bowl and won Super Bowl XLIII as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Honourable mentions: Jon Ryan (2006-2017), Klaus Wilmsmeyer (1992-1996, 1998)

Longsnapper — L. P. Ladouceur (2005-present)

The Montreal native holds the record for most consecutive games played in the history of the Dallas Cowboys. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2004 and is currently a free agent.

Honourable mention: J. P. Darche (2000-2008)

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.