While football evaluators agree it is mostly a cross-checking exercise, few things capture the public imagination quite like a combine.
While the NFL’s annual underwear Olympics has developed a robust primetime audience in recent years, the CFL’s own test of prospects strength, speed and agility — which will take place this weekend in Toronto — has largely flown under the radar.
On average, players at the CFL National Combine will post less eye-popping results than those south of the border for a variety of reasons, but incredible athletic feats have no passport requirements.
To get you ready for the most important weekend on the draft calendar, here is a look at ten of the most remarkable testing results ever posted at the CFL Combine.
10. Quinn Smith, DT/OG, Concordia
Round 1, Pick 7 — 2014 CFL Draft (Calgary Stampeders)
Incredible feat: forty-yard dash
It has become almost common place for behemoths to lay down blazing fast times in the NFL Combine’s marquee event, but not many 300-pounders have cracked the five-second mark north of the border. Concordia’s two-way monster Quinn Smith was the exception in 2014, laying down a dazzling time of 4.82 seconds at a hefty 302 pounds.
You could argue this should rank as the most impressive feat in CFL Combine history, given only 14 300-pounders in NFL history have run faster. However, Smith’s accomplishment was tainted by a positive test for the anabolic steroid stanozolol at the event. CFL teams cared little and the Stamps still made the beefy speedster a first-round pick.
9. Henoc Muamba, LB, St. Francis Xavier
Round 1, Pick 1 — 2011 CFL Draft (Winnipeg Blue Bombers)
Incredible feat: 3-cone
A favourite of many scouts and analysts, the general public pays less attention to the 3-cone than they probably should. A great measure of bend and change of direction, linebacker Henoc Muamba’s time of 6.72 in 2011 is the fourth best at a National Combine ever and came while weighing 29 pounds more than anyone faster.
The 229-pound Muamba proved able to round the corner almost as fast as NFL star Von Miller (6.70), though he has always preferred a quick interior blitz to an edge rush.
8. Dylan Hollohan, DB, St. Francis Xavier
Undrafted — 2012 CFL Draft
Incredible feat: short shuttle
As an Atlantic University Sport defensive back under five-foot-ten and 193 pounds coming off injury, no amount of remarkable athleticism was going to sway teams to take a chance on Hollohan. Nevertheless, his testing performance in 2012 was one for the ages, with his 3.89 second short shuttle setting a CFL Combine record.
Only four players in the history of the National Combine have dipped below the four-second mark in the longstanding change of direction drill and there hasn’t been an abundance of better performances south of the line. Hollohan’s time is just eight-hundredths of a second slower than the NFL mark set by first-round picks Jason Allen and Brandin Cooks.
7. Fabion Foote, DT, McMaster
Round 2, Pick 12 — 2017 CFL Draft (Montreal Alouettes)
Incredible feat: broad jump
The trenches tend to be the focal point of any CFL Draft, but generally smaller players and the amount of success top Canadian linemen find south of the border can limit the amount of big man magic at CFL Combines. Foote was a notable exception, showing off his explosive power with an eye-popping nine-foot, 11-inch broad jump in 2017.
Standing just over six-foot and 276 pounds, only 16 NFL prospects have ever jumped further than Foote at his weight or heavier. The closest comparable is Green Bay Packers’ 2019 first-round pick Rashan Gary, who jumped an inch further at a pound more.
6. Michael Montoya, RB, Wilfrid Laurier
Undrafted — 2010 CFL Draft
Incredible feat: bench press
The least functional of the combine tests, bench press does little except show scouts how hard you hit the gym. Still, you might have expected to see CFL record holder Michael Knill and his 47 reps — good enough for second all-time at the NFL Combine — make this list. Instead we are going smaller, with the undrafted Montoya edging out current Alouettes’ director of national scouting Byron Archambault for a mention.
At under five-foot-nine and 229 pounds, Montoya tossed a barbell roughly equivalent to his own bodyweight into the air 40 times. It doesn’t matter which side of the border you find yourself on, he’s the lightest player to ever post 40 or more reps in a Combine setting. That meant very little come draft day, but it sure deserves a shoutout here.
5. Shai Ross, REC, Manitoba
Round 5, Pick 40 — 2019 CFL Draft (Edmonton Elks)
Incredible feat: broad jump
Now famous across the world for dunking an Oreo in the most difficult manner possible, Ross arrived relatively unheralded to the 2019 CFL Combine and promptly shattered the event’s existing broad jump record by a full six inches.
Though lighter than most equivalent leapers at 181 pounds, Ross’ 11-foot, 5.5-inch jump would rank as the 12th best in NFL history. He still fell to the fifth round, where Edmonton happily scooped up a starting receiver.
4 & 3. Jamall Lee, RB, Bishop’s
Round 1, Pick 3 — 2009 CFL Draft (B.C. Lions)
Incredible feat: forty-yard dash, vertical jump
With a combine so nice, it had to appear twice, Lee has remarkable accomplishments to his credit in two separate testing events.
Back when the CFL was still using hand-timed results for it’s official combine data, the 221-pound running back blazed a reported 4.39 second forty. While that ranks behind receiver Steven Turner (4.31) and electronically-timed record holder Tevaughn Campbell (4.36) on the all-time list, Lee can be credited with the fastest weight-adjusted forty in Combine history.
Should you wish to take CFL hand-timing at full face value, just 18 NFL prospects since 2000 have run faster while weighing 220 pounds. 2021 first-team All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor ran the same time at 226 pounds before joining the Indianapolis Colts.
Lee also set a CFL Combine record with a 44-inch vertical jump, a number which would have placed him fourth in modern NFL Combine history. In fact, only nine NFL prospects this century have been officially credited with leaping higher at any event, putting Lee in a class of his own.
2. Chima Ihekwoaba, DE, Wilfrid Laurier
Round 2, Pick 14 — 2010 CFL Draft (Montreal Alouettes)
Incredible feat: vertical jump
When it comes to jumping, lineman are typically measured more by their broad than by their vert. Simply put, it’s hard for big boys to get airborne. Except for Ihekwoaba, who weighed in at 260 pounds before dropping scout’s jaws with a 41-inch bunny hop back in 2010.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round pick Bud Dupree is the only player in modern NFL Combine history to have jumped higher at 42 inches than Ihekwoaba at 260 pounds or more. It’s little wonder then why the Laurier product was signed by the Detroit Lions on draft day, though his career never really blossomed in either league.
1. Stefan Charles, DT, Regina
Round 2, Pick 10 — 2013 CFL Draft (Edmonton Elks)
Incredible feat: vertical jump
Aspects of Charles’ 2013 Combine were considered a bit of a disappointment, but you only need to see one testing number to recognize why he spent seven seasons bouncing around the NFL. The 310-pound nose tackle managed to power himself 37 inches into the air, a gravity-defying feat that boggles the mind.
With the impressive jump, Charles tied the NFL Combine record for highest vertical by a player over 300 pounds set by Al Woods and broke the CFL Combine mark set at 36 inches by Washington State tackle Joe Eppele back in 2010. With few players ever likely to exceed that mark, it should be considered the most remarkable athletic feat in CFL Combine history.