CFL to NFL Success Stories: Bodog’s Top Five

CFL betting

The NFL might demand much of the limelight when it comes to gridiron football, but it by no means has a monopoly on great footballing talent. If it did, we wouldn’t be telling you about the star players who kindly lent their superior skills to the teams south of the border.

Up our way, CFL betting is just as popular as NFL betting, reflecting the love of the homegrown league north of the border, and at Bodog you will find the best CFL odds. This is especially true as the playoffs edge ever-closer and fans begin to focus their minds on who will be successful the Grey Cup betting on November 21  this year.


Of course, most players from the CFL happily stay right where they are, but some have their sights set on the increased exposure and fancy contracts that the USA’s more famous football league can offer. After getting their passports stamped and settling in to the US of A in the team lucky enough to sign them, most CFL-cum-NFL players show why they’re there – but some really stand out from the bunch as being exceptional.

With the Grey Cup on the horizon and the start of the National Football League season following close behind, Bodog is reviewing the five greatest success stories of CFL players who made the leap to the NFL.

It’s storytime.

5. Warren Moon

Warren Moon spent 16 years in the NFL, spending most of his time at the Houston Oilers before having a few short stints at the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, and Kansas City Chiefs.

During that time, he won NFL Offensive Player of the Year and NFL Man of the Year, as well as appearing in nine Pro Bowls.

But the American didn’t start out in the NFL. He actually didn’t even wait for the draft, choosing instead to head north, and signing for the Edmonton Eskimos.

It was a good move as far as we’re concerned, as the Californian quarterback was able to win five consecutive Grey Cups, and was named the Grey Cup MVP on two occasions.

With Moon on the roster, the Eskimos consistently had strong Grey Cup odds until he decided to jump ship. NFL teams certainly took note of his superb skills on the gridiron, and unsurprisingly, he was eventually fielding offers. He ultimately accepted one from the Houston Oilers where he spent the best part of a decade, becoming the highest-paid NFL player in 1989.

4. Doug Flutie

Unlike Moon, Doug Flutie didn’t start out in the CFL before moving to the NFL. In fact, he didn’t make his professional debut in either of the leagues. The quarterback enjoyed a strong collegiate career at Boston, winning three prestigious awards in his senior year, and graduating as the NCAA’s leader in passing yards.

However, his size left question marks over his suitability for NFL teams who felt he was too short. After a very late picking in the draft, Flutie signed for the New Jersey Generals, a USFL team.

He impressed so much that he joined the Chicago Bears the following season, before moving to the New England Patriots. In 1990, he headed north, joining the BC Lions for 1990 and 1991, then moving to the Calgary Stampeders and then the Toronto Argonauts.

After winning three Grey Cups at two teams, cleaning up the Grey Cup MVP in each, he headed south again to sign for the Buffalo Bills. His performance that year was so great that he won NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

3. Ricky Williams

Ricky Williams gave the CFL the equivalent of a working holiday, but it was a helluva round trip. Originally from San Diego, Ricky Williams moved to Texas to play college football from 1995 to 1998. There he made quite the impression, winning just about every award he was eligible for and setting or equalling 20 records at that level.

This earned him a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, when he was snapped up by the New Orleans Saints. He remained with them until 2001 when he moved to Miami for 2002 and 2003 for another impressive run.

In a sign of the times, Williams was temporarily suspended from the Dolphins in 2004 for a positive test to marijuana, but received an extended suspension from the NFL after his fourth such detection, which removed him from the entire 2006 season.


Unable to play in the USA, Williams found his north star and signed for the Toronto Argonauts. He only gave one season to the CFL before returning to the NFL hand that bit him, but during that time he racked up 526 yards from 109 rushes, converting two touchdowns.

Before leaving for Miami, Williams stated that he would love to return to the CFL again, though unfortunately for the Argonauts, since retiring in 2011, that idea never did come to fruition.

2. Cameron Wake

Cameron Wake is a more contemporary example again of a player having success on both sides of the border, and one, so far, without a retirement story.

Although he had a decent college career, it wasn’t quite enough to have the NFL team scouts come a’knocking. Despite being undrafted in 2005, Wake still signed for the New York Giants, but in an anticlimactic turn, he was dropped before the season began.

After sitting football out entirely for two years, Wake put his efforts into Canadian football, signing for the BC Lions for the 2007 season. That year, he won several awards, including Most Outstanding Rookie, the Jackie Parker Trophy, and Most Outstanding Defensive Player, reminding the Giants that they’d perhaps let one of their own get away.

For the two years he spent in the CFL, Wake led the league in sacks and made the All-Star team on both occasions.

These bundle of achievements finally piqued the interest of NFL teams, including the Vikings, the Bills, and the Rams. It was, however, the Miami Dolphins who made Wake the most appealing offer, so the defensive end headed to Florida for 2009.

Five Pro Bowls, Wake remains in the NFL today, and is signed to the Tennessee Titans.

1. Joe Theismann

Younger football fans may know Joe Theismann as a football commentator, having been a regular talking head on ESPN and the NFL Network. But, before that, he was a high-achieving quarterback in both the CFL and the NFL.

After an impressive college career at Notre Dame, Theisman was the 99th overall pick in the NFL draft, but opted to join the Toronto Argonauts after contract negotiations broke down with the Miami Dolphins.

It was a great move for both parties. Theismann led the CFL’s Eastern Conference in passing stats while the Argonauts finished the regular season 10-4, and came within a whisker of winning the Grey Cup.

After a couple of years adding notches to his belt in Toronto, the quarterback was poached by the Washington Commanders, which also proved to be a good move for both those parties when it resulted in a Commanders victory at Super Bowl XVII.


There will be other players, no doubt, following in the footsteps of Theismann, Williams, Wake, Moon, and Flutie to seek different pastures in different fields. But while the CFL’s very best talent still heads up Canadian football, CFL betting remains in full-blown action mode at Bodog. We may just find ourselves watching the prequel to the CFL’s next NFL success story.