Ranking the Top 10 Players and Coaches to go from the CFL to the NFL

The Canadian Football League is the oldest professional football league in the world. It has a history of sending big-time players to the NFL, and many players have gone from the NFL to the CFL. Today, we will look at players that started in the CFL and ended up having memorable NFL careers.

10) Mervyn Fernandez

He was a two-time CFL all-star and headed to the NFL, where he spent all six years there with the Raiders, amassing 209 catches for 3,764 yards and 19 touchdowns in 86 games.


9) Joe Horn

A member of the now-defunct Shreveport Pirates and the short-lived Memphis Mad Dogs, Horn spent only two seasons in the CFL before moving south of the border to play for the Kansas City Chiefs. Horn was used sparingly by the Chiefs. Horn signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent before the 2000 NFL season. During his seven seasons of performing at a very high level with the Saints, Horn was honored with four Pro Bowl selections. With the Saints, Horn finished four seasons with over 950 yards and crossed the goal line an impressive 50 times.

Video: Joe Horn - Career Highlights!!!!

Joe Horn – Career Highlights!!!!

8) Raghib Ismail

Ismail received the largest contract in professional football history with the Argonauts; Ismail took little time to prove his worth in the CFL, leading the Argonauts to a victory in the 79th Grey Cup and earning an appearance on the 1991 All-Star squad.

In his second and last season in the CFL, Ismail set the Argonauts’ single-season record for kick-return yards.

Ismail never really lived up to people’s expectations, but he was a solid NFL player.

1991 Grey Cup: Best of Raghib “Rocket” Ismail | CBC Sports

7) Joe Kapp

Kapp joined the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL for his rookie season in 1959. The following year, Kapp led Calgary to their first playoff appearance in years. However, the season was difficult because he injured his knee against the Toronto Argonauts early in the season but did not miss any games because he played heavily taped.

In 1961, the BC Lions, the CFL’s newest franchise, traded four starting players to the Calgary Stampeders for Joe Kapp. The move paid off for the Lions when Kapp led the team to a Grey Cup appearance in 1963. The following season, Kapp led the Lions to their first Grey Cup victory in 1964. However, the Lions proved unable to defend their championship in 1965.

Kapp’s NFL career was not long or spectacular, but he led the Vikings to Super Bowl IV.

1964 Grey Cup highlights BC Lions vs. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

6) Cameron Wake

In his two short years in the CFL established himself as one of the greatest pass rushers the CFL had ever seen. He amassed an incredible 39 sacks in two seasons and was named the defensive player of the year both years he played.

Wake established himself as one of the top pass rushers in the NFL and has been named all-star in two countries.

Cameron Wake Journey Through The CFL

5) Marv Levy

Led Montreal to two Grey Cups, and then, as head coach of Buffalo, won 4 AFC Championships but lost out in the Super Bowl four times, including the infamous Super Bowl XXV heartbreaker to the New York Giants 21-20 on a missed field goal with 4 seconds left.

Marv Levy Elected to Canadian Football HOF

4) Jeff Garcia

Jeff Garcia started his career in Canada as Doug Flutie’s backup. Garcia tossed for over 16,000 yards and 111 touchdowns while winning the 1998 Grey Cup. Before the 1999 NFL season, Garcia signed with the San Francisco 49ers, placing himself in the unenviable position of backing up a legend; NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young. After Young’s season was ended prematurely with a concussion, Garcia was instated as the 49ers starting quarterback for the rest of the season. As a first-year starter for the 49ers, Garcia surpassed all expectations, setting a team record for passing yards and earning a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl squad. Over the next two years, Garcia cemented his status as a top-level quarterback with back-to-back playoff appearances.

CFL Remote Reunion: 1998 Calgary Stampeders

3) Joe Theismann

Theismann had immediate success with the Toronto Argonauts, leading his team to ten wins and a berth in the 59th Grey Cup against the Calgary Stampeders. After three years in the CFL and two, All-Star nominations, Theismann headed south of the border to play for the Washington Redskins of the NFL. In Washington, Theismann led the Redskins to two Super Bowls, winning one.

1971 Toronto Argonauts vs Edmonton Eskimos Joe Theismann

2) Warren Moon

Moon would lead the Eskimos to an astonishing five straight Grey Cup victories from 1978 to 1982. During that span, Moon threw for 113 touchdowns and over 20,000 yards. In Moon’s sixth and last season in the CFL, he would be named the league’s Most Outstanding Player.

Moon would go on to become a hall of fame NFL quarterback. How could he not be in the top 2?

Warren Moon 1-on-1: Trailblazer | CFL Originals

1) Bud Grant

During his ten seasons as head coach in Winnipeg, he led the team to six Grey Cup appearances, winning the championship four times in 1958, 1959, 1961, and 1962. He finished his Blue Bombers coaching career with a regular-season record of 105 wins, 53 losses, two ties, and an overall record of 122 wins, 66 losses, and three ties. Grant was the CFL Coach of the Year in 1965.

He left for Minnesota and ended up leading the Vikings to 4 Super Bowl appearances. Ten combined grey cup and Super Bowl appearances are why he is at the top of the list.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers Bud Grant Ring of Honour Induction Ceremony