I recently took the liberty of creating the NFL’s all-time roster of Canadians, featuring the best homegrown players ever to play south of the border.
The article was well-received, which led me to ask: what would the CFL’s all-time roster of Canadians look like? After delving through a century of history, this is the list of players I’ve come up with.
I have strived for positional accuracy, though many of the players listed below played several positions throughout their long careers.
We’re presenting the offence today. Check back tomorrow for the defence and special teams.
Editor’s note: players at the same position are listed in alphabetical order.
Quarterback — Russ Jackson (1958-1969)
The three-time CFL Most Outstanding Player (1963, 1966, 1969) passed for 24,592 yards and 185 touchdowns with the Ottawa Rough Riders while rushing for 5,045 yards and 54 scores. The Hamilton native is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, and is a recipient of the Lou Marsh Trophy (1969) and the Order of Canada (1970). Jackson is often considered the best Canadian player in CFL history.
Honourable mention: Don Getty (1955-1965)
Running Back — Andrew Harris (2009-present)
Harris became the CFL’s all-time rushing yardage leader among Canadians in 2019, eclipsing Normie Kwong’s previous record of 9,022 yards. The Winnipeg native has also recorded 712 receptions for 5,107 yards and 31 touchdowns, forcing opposing defences to respect him as a rusher and receiver. In 2019, Harris became the first player ever to be named the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Canadian.
Honourable mentions: Jon Cornish (2007-2015), Normie Kwong (1948-1960)
Wide Receiver — Terry Evanshen (1965-1978), Jim Young (1967-1979)
Evanshen recorded 1,662 receiving yards with the Stampeders in 1967, which remains the greatest single-season performance in CFL history among Canadian targets. The two-time CFL Most Outstanding Canadian (1967, 1971) retired with 600 receptions for 9,697 yards and 80 touchdowns, winning one Grey Cup with his hometown Alouettes in 1970.
Young caught 522 passes for 9,248 yards and 65 touchdowns and remains the second-leading receiver in the history of the B.C. Lions behind Geroy Simon. The Hamilton native was twice named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian and is a member of the Canadian Football, B.C. Sports, and Canada’s Sports Halls of Fame.
Honourable mentions: Rocky DiPietro (1978-1991), Rick House (1979-1991)
Slotback — Ben Cahoon (1998-2010), Ray Elgaard (1983-1996), Tony Gabriel (1971-1981)
Cahoon was a ten-time East Division all-star who was twice named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian. The three-time Grey Cup champion retired as the league’s all-time leading receiver with 1,017 catches, though this mark has since been surpassed by Geroy Simon and Nik Lewis.
Elgaard was a three-time CFL Most Outstanding Canadian who retired with 830 receptions for 13,198 yards and 78 touchdowns. The Edmonton native remains the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ all-time leading receiver and had the most receptions and receiving yardage in CFL history at the time of his retirement.
Gabriel is one of just three Canadians ever to be named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player alongside Russ Jackson and Jon Cornish. The eight-time league all-star from Burlington retired with 614 receptions for 9,832 yards and 69 touchdowns and won a Grey Cup with Hamilton and Ottawa.
Honourable mentions: Jock Climie (1990-2001), Joe Poplawski (1978-1986)
Tackle — Gene Makowsky (1995-2011), Chris Walby (1981-1996)
Makowsky was named a CFL all-star five times and remains Saskatchewan’s all-time leader in games played with 284. The Saskatoon native was twice named the league’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, was a first-ballot inductee to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, and won a Grey Cup with the Riders in 2007.
Walby was a nine-time CFL all-star who was twice named the league’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman. The Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee won three Grey Cups with his hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers and was the first player inducted to the Ring of Honour at IG Field in 2017.
Honourable mentions: Lloyd Fairbanks (1975-1991), Jim Mills (1983-1995)
Guard — Roger Aldag (1976-1992), Scott Flory (1999-2013)
Aldag was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and was twice named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman (1986, 1988). The native of Gull Lake, Sask. was a five-time CFL all-star (1986-1990) and his No. 44 was retired by the Riders following his career.
Flory was a nine-time CFL all-star who was named the league’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in back-to-back seasons. He won three Grey Cups over fifteen seasons with the Alouettes and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
Honourable mentions: Brendon LaBatte (2008-present), Pierre Vercheval (1988-2001)
Centre — Bryan Chiu (1997-2009)
The native of Vancouver dressed for 218 games with the Montreal Alouettes and appeared in seven Grey Cups, winning two. He was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2002 and was a nine-time East Division all-star.
Honourable mentions: Rod Connop (1982-1997), Al Wilson (1972-1986)