Who is on the CFL’s Mount Rushmore?

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Arash Madani and Rod Pedersen recently tweet their selections for who they would put on the CFL’s Mount Rushmore (Madani’s list included Russ Jackson, Geroy Simon, Damon Allen, and Don Matthews, while Pedersen’s list included Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, Ron Lancaster, and Wally Buono).

These choices inspired me to consider who I would put on the CFL’s Mount Rushmore if such a monument were to exist. It’s not an easy selection process.

Do you simply choose the four best players? How do you compare a quarterback to a linebacker? What about coaches and those who worked in personnel? What about people who held a combination of those roles? How about players who went on to showcase the league as commentators and analysts? That counts for something, too.

It was extremely difficult to limit this list to four individuals. If you asked me for my selections again in six months I would probably change at least one pick. I guess it’s a good thing that my choices won’t actually be carved into 60-foot stone sculptures, allowing members to be swapped as needed.

Here are my selections. They are listed alphabetically by last name.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Wally Buono

Born in Italy and raised in Montreal, Buono played linebacker and punter for his hometown Alouettes for ten seasons (1972-81) and won two Grey Cups. We don’t know much about his career statistics — the CFL didn’t track tackles as an official stat until after Buono’s retirement — but he intercepted 11 passes and punted the ball 525 times.

Buono became the head coach of the Calgary Stampeders in 1990 after serving as an assistant coach for just four seasons. He enjoyed a remarkable 13-year run with the team during which he also took on the role of general manager in 1992. He went 153-79-2 in the regular season, finishing atop the West Division eight times and winning three Grey Cups.

He departed for the B.C. Lions in 2003 and spent the following 16 years as the team’s head coach (2003-11, 2016-18) and general manager (2003-16). The club went 129-86-1 with Buono on the bench, including five first-place finishes and two Grey Cup titles.

Buono is the CFL’s all-time leader in coaching wins with 282 — 51 more than his nearest competitor — and is tied with Hugh Campbell and Don Matthews for the most Grey Cups won as a head coach. He is also the fourth-winningest head coach in the history of professional football, trailing only Don Shula (328), George Halas (318), and Bill Belichick (289).

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee has won four Annis Stukus Trophies, seven Grey Cups, and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2014.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons

The five-foot-six, 170-pound speedster is also the only player ever to record over 5,000 career yards in rushing (5,232), receiving (7,015), kickoff returns (6,349), and punt returns (6,025). He also has the most all-purpose yardage in the history of professional football, recording 25,438 yards over the course of his CFL career (1989-2000).

Clemons was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 1990, a two-time league all-star, a four-time division all-star, and twice won the Tom Pate Memorial Award. He also won three Grey Cups as a player before retiring midway through the 2000 season to become the interim head coach of the Toronto Argonauts.

Pinball went 68-55-1 as Toronto’s head coach over the next eight seasons, including two first-place finishes in the East Division and one Grey Cup title. In 2004, he became the first Black head coach to reach and win a Grey Cup or Super Bowl.

The 57-year-old has held a number of roles in Toronto’s front office, including president (2001-02), general manager (2003, 2019-present), CEO (2009), and vice-chair (2009-19), winning two more Grey Cups while serving in those roles.

Clemons has six Grey Cup rings, his No. 31 is retired by the Argos, and he is a member of the Ontario Sports, Canadian Sports, and Canadian Football Halls of Fame.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Russ Jackson

The five-foot-ten, 195-pound quarterback established himself as the greatest Canadian-born football player of all-time over his 12-year career with the Ottawa Rough Riders during which he threw for 24,593 yards, 185 touchdowns, 125 interceptions, rushed 738 times for 5,045 yards and 54 touchdowns, and won three Grey Cups.

Jackson was a first-round pick out of McMaster University in 1958 and wasted little time making an impact at the professional level, winning his first major award in 1959 and his first Grey Cup in 1960. He retired with four Most Outstanding Canadian awards (tied for first all-time) and three Most Outstanding Player awards (tied for second all-time).

The Hamilton native’s impact on Canadian sport rippled out far beyond professional football as he received the Order of Canada, was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, and was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy. He remains one of four professional players ever to win the prestigious award alongside Joe Krol (1946), Jon Cornish (2013), and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (2020).

Though his stint as the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts (1975-76) was short-lived, Jackson has remained a steadfast supporter of three-down football since his retirement from the CFL. His No. 12 was retired by the Rough Riders, an honour that has since been upheld by the Redblacks.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Ron Lancaster

The five-foot-ten, 185-pound quarterback played three seasons with the Ottawa Rough Riders (1960-62) before his rights were sold to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He then embarked on a 16-year career with the Green and White during which he established himself as arguably the greatest player in franchise history.

Lancaster passed for 50,535 yards, 333 touchdowns, and 396 interceptions over 287 career games, retiring as the CFL’s leader in virtually every passing statistical category. He led Saskatchewan to its first Grey Cup victory in 1966 and was twice named the league’s Most Outstanding Player.

The four-time CFL all-star and seven-time West Division all-star served as his own offensive coordinator late during his playing career and became Saskatchewan’s head coach immediately following his retirement in 1979, though his two-year stint at the helm yielded a disastrous 4-28 record.

Lancaster served as an analyst for the CFL on CBC for a decade before embarking on new head coaching opportunities. He went 83-43 in Edmonton (1991-97) with two first-place finishes and one Grey Cup, followed by a 55-66-1 record with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1998-2003, 2006) with one first-place finish and one Grey Cup.

The native of Fairchance, Pa. died of a heart attack in September 2008 at the age of 69. He won four Grey Cups, two M.O.P. awards, two Annis Stukus Trophies, one Tom Pate Memorial award, and was a first-ballot inductee into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Also received consideration: Damon Allen, Anthony Calvillo, Doug Flutie, John Hufnagel, Dan Kepley, Don Matthews, Warren Moon, Angelo Mosca, Mike O’Shea, George Reed, Geroy Simon, Milt Stegall, Chris Walby.