It’s back-to-school time across the country and that means only one thing: the return of university football.
U Sports teams in the Maritimes, Quebec, and Ontario are scheduled to kick off the 2022 season on August 27, with Western Canada joining in the action starting September 2. For the first time since 2019, teams will compete in a full eight-game schedule as they quest to capture the 57th Vanier Cup in November.
College football is big business south of the border but university athletics in Canada is often treated as little more than an afterthought by both students and the general public. For the savvy consumer, however, it offers a chance to see the football stars of tomorrow at rock-bottom prices.
In honour of U Sports kick-off weekend, 3DownNation is going conference-by-conference to unveil the greatest alumni every school has sent to the professional ranks. This list is limited to the modern era — leather helmets need not apply — and based on their accomplishments at the CFL or NFL level only, not collegiate accolades.
From CFL all-stars to NFL Pro Bowlers, Lou Marsh award winners to Hall of Famers, some truly legendary athletes have graced Canadian campuses. We’ll start our list of honourees out east, breaking down the best and brightest from Atlantic University Sport.
Acadia Axemen: Bob Cameron, Punter
There is a strong argument to be made for long-time NFL receiver Jerome Pathon in this spot but given that he only played his freshman season at Acadia before transferring to Washington, I’ve elected to go elsewhere with the selection. After winning the Hec Crighton Trophy as the Axemen’s quarterback, Cameron converted to punter for a remarkable 26-year CFL career — 23 of which came with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He was a six-time all-star who retired as the league’s all-time leader in punting yards and consecutive games played, earning Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2010.
Honourable mentions: REC Jerome Pathon, OL Bruce Beaton, REC Paul Masotti, FB Mike Miller
Bishop’s Gaiters: Leroy Blugh, Defensive End
Few choices on this list were more clear-cut than Blugh, who finished his 14-year pro career with Edmonton and Toronto as one of the CFL’s greatest Canadian pass rushers. The first-generation immigrant from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines amassed 333 tackles and 77 sacks, earning Most Outstanding Canadian honours in 1996. The two-time all-star received his call from the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
Honourable mentions: REC Nick Arakgi, DB Tom Europe, RB Chris Skinner, DT Junior Turner
Mount Allison Mounties: Terry Baker, Kicker/Punter
Baker could have also made the list for Acadia — where he spent his final collegiate season in 1986 — but his three seasons prior to that with the Mounties are good enough to put him on top of a rather lacklustre group. The native Nova Scotian handled both kicking and punting duties for Saskatchewan, Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal over the course of a 16-year CFL career, twice leading the league in scoring and earning all-star honours on two other occasions. He retired in 2002 with a career 72.2 percent accuracy on field goals and 2,123 points to his name, somehow making 72 tackles in the process.
Honourable mentions: OL Mike Filer, RB Eric Lapointe, FB/P Rick Black, DB Philippe Girard
Saint Mary’s Huskies: Hector Pothier, Offensive Line
One of the greatest offensive linemen in franchise history, Hec Pothier spent twelve seasons grinding down opponents in Edmonton and won a Grey Cup in exactly half the years he played. A stalwart from 1978 until 1989, he was a four-time West Division all-star and two-time league-wide selection but was more revered off the field, taking home the prestigious Tom Pate Memorial Award in 1988. Pothier was inducted into the Elks’ Wall of Honour in 2014.
Honourable mentions: P Ken Clark, DT Noah Cantor, REC Dave Stala, OL Steve Morley
St. Francis Xavier X-Men: Henoc Muamba, Linebacker
Anointed since day one, Muamba was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ first overall selection in the 2011 CFL Draft and spent three seasons with the team before jumping to the Indianapolis Colts, playing 13 NFL games in 2014. He returned to Canada in 2015 with Montreal, briefly heading back south with the Dallas Cowboys before settling into his CFL career with the Roughriders, Alouettes and now Argonauts. Still one of the league’s best middle linebackers, Muamba has three all-star seasons already under his belt and was named the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian in 2019.
Honourable mentions: DT Eugene Belliveau, DB/RB Paul Brule, LB Mike McCullough, DB Richard Karikari