The lengthy history of the American spring outdoor professional alternative football league genre always has had a distinct Canadian flavor.
From multi-time Grey Cup champion head coach Hugh Campbell joining the United States Football League’s Los Angeles Express in the same capacity, to another Canadian Football League coaching great, Don Matthews, leading the World League of American Football’s Orlando Thunder, to players like running back Kelvin Anderson and wide receiver/return specialist Jimmy “The Jet” Cunningham helping the XFL’s San Francisco Demons to that league’s only title game, the CFL’s influence on American spring outdoor pro alternative football leagues has been strong.
Sunday at 6 p.m., the CFL’s 101st Grey Cup game will be contested by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The game very well could give A11FL fans a glimpse at some of the players (and, perhaps, coaches) who will be on those fields beginning in the spring of 2015.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have a pair of backup quarterbacks who could post big-time numbers in the A11FL – Jeremiah Masoli and Dan LeFevour. Masoli has seen little time in Hamilton after being the starter for the United Football League’s Omaha Nighthawks in 2011. He was in the training camp of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers in 2011, and was a highly-productive Division I quarterback at both Oregon and Ole Miss. LeFevour has been a solid passer-runner for Hamilton in limited duty, and ran 18 times for 61 yards and a touchdown in the Tiger-Cats’ playoff opener against the Montreal Alouettes. LeFevour was a sixth-round selection of the Chicago Bears three years ago, and is the only player in NCAA history with at least 12,000 passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards.
Two other Hamilton players who would fit the A11FL game are former USC running back C.J. Gable and ex-NFL return specialist Brandon Banks. Gable’s first year in the CFL was a very good one, as the former New Orleans Saints training camper racked up 11 touchdowns and 1,380 yards from scrimmage. Banks, who spent three seasons with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted receiver/returner, was a midseason addition for Hamilton, and did a little bit of everything during the regular season (six rushes, nine catches, 14 kickoff returns and 17 punt returns).
The Saskatchewan Roughriders feature one of the CFL’s best sack artists, the versatile defensive end/linebacker Alex Hall. After spending three seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, Hall has played two CFL campaigns – and recorded 25 sacks. His 16 sacks in 2013 were second-best in the league.
Saskatchewan features one of the CFL’s top running backs in former Purdue Boilermaker Kory Sheets (2,875 yards, 23 touchdowns rushing; 86 catches in two CFL seasons), a former Miami Dolphin, San Francisco 49er and Carolina Panther. The ’Riders also have some of the more versatile CFL backs in Jock Sanders, a 5-foot-6 dynamo who averages 5.8 yards per carry, 9.6 yards per catch, 21.8 yards per kickoff return and 8.4 yards per punt return in his three-year pro career.
More A11FL prospects come in the form of former Virginia Tech defensive back/returner Macho Harris (fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009) and safety/linebacker Tyron Brackenridge, a versatile defender who played two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, two with the Jacksonville Jaguars and now three with the Roughriders.