The ten best rushing seasons by quarterbacks in CFL history

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Justin Fields had a remarkable year running the ball for the Chicago Bears this past season, rushing 160 times for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns. He might have made history had he not missed the final game of the year due to a strained hip, falling just shy of the NFL’s single-season quarterback rushing record of 1,206 yards set by Lamar Jackson in 2019.

Watching the former first-round pick torch opposing defences with his legs led me to wonder: what are the top 10 single-season rushing performances by CFL quarterbacks?

An obvious trend emerged when comparing quarterback rushing statistics between the NFL and CFL. Of the NFL’s 20 best single-season rushing performances by quarterbacks, 18 have taken place since 2004 and 12 have taken place since 2017. Clearly, the NFL is in the midst of a golden age of mobile quarterbacks.

The same can’t be said of the CFL, where only one of the top 10 single-season quarterback rushing performances has occurred since the turn of the century. If you’re curious to see what those top 10 performances are, here they are courtesy of CFL head statistician Steve Daniel.

10) Damon Allen, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1992) — 850 yards

It’s no surprise to see Allen on this list considering he ranks third in CFL history with a remarkable 11,920 career rushing yards. This was the third-best single-season rushing total of Allen’s career and one of six years in which he ran for seven or more touchdowns.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/John Bradley/CFLPhotoArchive.com

9) Nealon Greene, Edmonton Elks (1999) — 878 yards

Greene set a CFL record for the most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback in 1999, rushing for 180 yards against Saskatchewan on July 16. Though he ranks only ninth on this list, Greene had longest run (68 yards) and best average yards per carry (9.1 yards) among the seasons listed here.

8) Damon Allen, Edmonton Elks (1993) — 920 yards

1993 marked Allen’s third consecutive year with over 850 rushing yards, a feat he achieved as a member of three different teams. He had the second-best single-game rushing performance by a quarterback in CFL history this season, rushing for 170 yards against B.C. on October 29.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

7) Jackie Parker, Edmonton Elks (1954) — 925 yards

Though he would go on to win three M.O.P. awards and have a Hall of Fame career, this was only Parker’s first year in the CFL. This number should be taken with a grain of salt as Parker spent a portion of the season at running back.

6) Ken Hobart, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1985) — 928 yards

The former USFL pivot ran wild in his first CFL season while adding 2,522 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions through the air. Though not reflected in his regular season rushing total, Hobart set a Grey Cup quarterback record with 125 rushing yards in a losing effort against B.C.

Tracy Ham. Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com.

5) Tracy Ham, Edmonton Elks (1991) — 998 yards

The Hall of Fame passer had the fourth-best single-game rushing performance by a quarterback in league history this season, running for 166 yards in a game against Ottawa. Ham sits second behind Allen for most rushing yards by a quarterback in CFL history with 8,043.

4) Tracy Ham, Edmonton Elks (1989) — 1,005 yards

This season marked the first time in CFL history that a quarterback reached the 1,000-yard rushing threshold. Ham was named the league’s M.O.P. after also throwing for 4,366 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions, though his team was upset by Saskatchewan in the playoffs after going 16-2 in the regular season.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

3) Kerry Joseph, Ottawa Renegades (2005) — 1,006 yards

Joseph made the final season in Ottawa Renegades history one to remember, becoming the first and only quarterback this century to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He was named the CFL’s M.O.P. two years later in Saskatchewan and led his team to a Grey Cup victory over Winnipeg.

2) Damon Allen, Ottawa Rough Riders (1991) — 1,036 yards

Allen was not only highly productive along the ground this season but he also threw for 4,275 yards, which set a new career high and was the fourth-best total of his career. Though he was never able to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark again, Allen surpassed the 750-yard mark seven times throughout his Hall of Fame career.

1) Tracy Ham, Edmonton Elks (1990) — 1,096 yards

The Georgia Southern product had three 100-yard rushing games this season, though his longest carry of the year went for only 32 yards. Of the three seasons Ham is featured on this list, this is only one in which Edmonton didn’t finish first in the West Division though, coincidentally, it is also the only season in which the club qualified for the Grey Cup.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.