If the NFL odds are to be believed, there will be celebrations of the streets of Buffalo, Toronto and Montreal in February 2023. The Bills, after a rip-roaring start to the season are the favourites with the sportsbooks and many pundits to lift the Lombardi Trophy.
If they do, nose tackle Eli Ankou will become the 20th Canadian to play in the showpiece event and the 16th to win it, delighted football fans north of the American-Canadian border. In advance of that potentially monumental moment, we’ve compiled a list of the greatest Canadian’s to have played in the NFL.
Scroll down to find out who they are…
Born in Rainy River, Ontario in 1908 Bronko Nagurski was a man mountain who not only dominated the NFL but also dominated the professional wrestling heavyweight division. During his nine year career in the NFL, Nagurski played as a fullback for the Chicago Bears.
In that period he recorded 4,021 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven touchdown passes – two of which came in the final game of the 1933 season in which the Bears won the title.
Retiring in 1938 to focus on his wrestling career, Nagurski actually came back to the sport in 1943 at the age of 35, helping the Bears to win another title.
Those achievements, rightly earned Nagurski a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame.
(Bronko Nagurski isn’t just one of the best Canadians to have played in the NFL, he’s one of the best players of all-time period.)
The 166th overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft, Halifax born Eddie Murray didn’t start playing football until his teens, whereupon he discovered that he was incredibly talented. In 10 out of his 11 years with the Detroit Lions, Murray topped the scoring charts.
He held the record for a 54-yard field goal and the most consecutive field goal successes (12) as well as the honour of being named the league’s MVP in his rookie season. Over his 20 year career, Murray played 250 games, scoring a staggering 1,594 points.
He was named in the Pro Bowl in 1980 and 1989 and won the Super Bowl in 1994 with the Dallas Cowboys.
Sticking with the theme of Canadian players with excellent accuracy, we have the example of Mike Vanderjagt, who began his career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders before making to the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts in 1998.
Over his career, Vanderjagt made over 85% of his field goal attempts and missed just two extra points in his entire career. The Canadian’s record of consecutive field goals was only broken by Adam Vinateiri, who had to kick 43 field goals in order to break the record.
It was that accuracy and consistency from Vanderjagt that earned him an All-Pro in 2003 and saw him finish the 1999 season as the league’s leading scorer.
(Despite a successful kicking career, Vanderjagt is perhaps best remembered by football fans for his public spat with Peyton Mannning back in 2003.)
Despite having a name that sounds like a model of a British made car from the 1960s, Austin Collie would go on to prove himself as one of the most talented Canadians to have played in the NFL.
Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, Collie flew under the radar in a Colts offense that was led by Peyton Manning. That’s not to say that the Hamilton born wide receiver wasn’t a key cog in that Colts offense though.
In his second year with the franchise, Collie made 118 catches for 15 touchdowns in 25 games. Unfortunately though Collie’s promising career was derailed by injuries, most notably concussions.
Had he managed to stay fit and healthy, he would have undoubtedly gone on to have a memorable career in the NFL.
L. P. Ladouceur
Born in Montreal, Louis-Phillipe Ladouceur began his football career as a long snapper with the New Orleans Saints in 2005. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and rendered the Louisiana Superdrome unplayable, Ladouceur moved to the Dallas Cowboys.
During his 16 seasons with the Cowboys, Ladouceur didn’t miss a game, representing his side 253 times, holding the records for most games played by a Canadian, most consecutive games played by a snapper and most consecutive games played for one team by a special team’s player.