The best CFL player, past and present, from every school in the College Football Playoff

Curtesy: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

On Sunday, the College Football Playoff selection committee revealed the four schools that will vie for the NCAA’s National Championship.

Annually one of the most controversial decisions in sports, each of the teams selected has a chance to etch themselves in history. This year, the University of Georgia will take on Ohio State in one New Year’s Eve semi-final, while the University of Michigan will face Texas Christian University in the other. The winner of each game will face off for the title on January 9, 2023, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

Two young Canadian players have a chance to follow in the footsteps of former Alabama receiver John Metchie III and win a ring stateside. Montreal’s Alessandro Lorenzetti is redshirting as an offensive lineman for Michigan, while Edmonton’s Lwal Uguak has been a rotational piece as a senior along TCU’s defensive line.

However, many more players from each school’s roster will try their hand at pro football in Canada over the coming years — just as hundreds of others from their alma maters already have. In honour of their accomplishments, let’s look back at the best CFL player to come from each playoff-bound program, as well as their top alumnus currently north of the border.

No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs

Photo courtesy: John Bradley/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Past: Ben Zambiasi, LB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats/Toronto Argonauts

One of the best linebackers in Bulldogs history, Zambiasi racked up 465 career tackles while earning All-SEC honours three times during his stint in Athens. After jumping to the CFL in 1978, his production didn’t decrease in the slightest and he was named the East Division’s top rookie in the first of 10 spectacular seasons spent with the Ticats.

The native of Valdosta would go on to be named the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player a year later, receiving a CFL all-star nod six times before retiring as a member of the Argos in 1988. The Georgia “Team of the Century” selection was enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Photo courtesy: Steven Chang/B.C. Lions

Present: Quincy Mauger, DB, B.C. Lions

A solid member of the secondary in 50 games with Georgia, Mauger posted 186 combined tackles, seven interceptions, 12 pass knockdowns and a forced fumble in his college career.

After bouncing around the NFL and other American leagues, he signed with the Lions ahead of the 2022 season and played eight games in his first year, recording 19 defensive tackles, two special teams tackles, a sack, a pick and a forced fumble. The 27-year-old finished the year on the practice roster but has re-signed with the team for next season.

No. 2 Michigan Wolverines

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Past: Jim Coode, OL, Ottawa Rough Riders

This choice came down to a couple of fantastic linemen who were both lost far too soon in Coode and former Edmonton standout Art Walker, but I’ll lean to the more recent player here. A stalwart tackle who played at both bookend spots for some dominant Michigan teams in the early 1970s, Coode arrived in the Canadian capital mid-way through the 1974 season and stuck around for seven years.

He was twice named an East Division all-star and took home league honours in 1978, the same season he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman. Tragically, Coode was diagnosed with ALS after the 1979 season and was forced to retire after four games in 1980. He passed away in 1987 and had his number 60 retired by the organization.

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Present: Jeremy Clark, DB, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Coming all the way from Madisonville, Kentucky, Clark registered 50 tackles, 10 knockdowns, and three interceptions in 36 games while in Ann Arbor and did enough to be drafted in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Now with the Riders, he blossomed into a major contributor in his second season, making 30 defensive tackles, adding two on special teams and forcing a fumble in 17 appearances. The 28-year-old is currently scheduled to hit free agency in February.

No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Past: Jason Tucker, REC, Edmonton Football Team

Tucker’s time at Texas Christian University is defined by what could have been, as he posted 78 receptions for 1,197 yards and five touchdowns in three years but was suspended before what many felt would be a breakout senior season. The Cincinnati Bengals drafted him in the sixth round of the 1998 NFL Draft anyway, but he wouldn’t truly hit his stride until arriving in Edmonton in 2002.

In seven CFL seasons, Tucker racked up 388 catches for 7,046 yards and 59 touchdowns, earning all-star status on four different occasions. He was named the MVP of the 2003 Grey Cup after a 132-yard performance, but the receiver is sadly remembered for the broken neck that prematurely ended his career. He remains a fixture in the league, however, currently serving as the position coach for the B.C. Lions’ star-studded receiving corps.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Present: Ranthony Texada, DB, Montreal Alouettes

It is slim pickings for Horned Frogs currently in the CFL ranks, but Texada remains active on the fringes of the league. Starting all 42 games he played at corner during his college career, the Frisco native earned multiple All-Big 12 selections and even a couple of All-American nods as a senior, amassing 111 tackles, 32 pass breakups, five sacks and three interceptions.

He has since bounced around the NFL, XFL and CFL, making 24 appearances for the Ottawa Redblacks. Texada registered 24 tackles and a pick in two years with the team before being released in September, landing with the Alouettes where he dressed for a single game.

No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Past: Brent Johnson, DE, B.C. Lions

It’s not very often that a kid from Kingston, Ontario can find a home with one of college football’s most iconic programs, but Johnson did just that. In 41 games for the Buckeyes, he notched 110 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 19 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception, becoming an All-Big 10 selection in 2000 following a nine-sack senior year.

After being selected in the third round of the 2000 CFL Draft by B.C., Johnson continued to harass quarterbacks at an impressive clip. In 11 seasons, he was credited with 89 sacks and 277 tackles, twice winning Most Outstanding Canadian and taking home the trophy as the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2006. A three-time CFL all-star, Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Present: Damon Webb, DB, Ottawa Redblacks

Best remembered as the MVP of the 2017 Cotton Bowl, Webb played 35 games in Columbus, registering 131 tackles, six interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. Five of those picks came as a senior, earning him third-team All-Big Ten honours.

Signed by Saskatchewan in 2020, Webb played ten games in his first CFL season and registered 27 defensive tackles, seven more on special teams, an interception and a fumble recovery touchdown. He was released by the Riders after making just two appearances in 2022 but landed in Ottawa, playing nine games down the stretch and adding 33 more tackles and another pick to his resume. The 27-year-old is a pending free agent.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.