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THE CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE

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The Canadian Football League can trace its roots back to a soccer game in Rugby, England in 1823 when a player named William Webb Ellis suddenly picked up the ball and started to run with it, only to be tackled by an opponent.   Thus was born the game of Rugby Football.

The game progressed from that point and was introduced to North America by the British Army garrison in Montreal, which played a series of games with McGill University.    In 1874, McGill arranged to play a few games at Harvard, which liked the new game so much that it became a feature of the Ivy League.   Both the Canadian and American games evolved from this point.


In Canada, the game developed through associations organized in each province and in 1884, the Canadian Rugby Football Union was created as the sport's governing body. By 1890, the game was being played in each province.

In 1909, the Governor-General of Canada, Lord Albert Henry Earl Grey, donated a trophy to be awarded to the team winning the Senior Amateur Football Championship of Canada, better known as the Grey Cup.


Grey Cup competition was originally open to university teams and other amateur organizations and the inscriptions on the trophy include such teams as University of Toronto, Queen's University and the RCAF Hurricanes.   Teams from Western Canada were not permitted to challenge until 1921 when Edmonton Eskimos made their first of 22 Grey Cup appearances.   By 1955, the universities and other leagues had withdrawn from Grey Cup competition which then was under the aegis of the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU).


The name "Canadian Football League" was officially adopted in 1958 and G. Sydney Halter of Winnipeg was appointed the first Commissioner.   The CFL withdrew from the CRU, which later changed its name to the Canadian Amateur Football Association. In 1966, the CAFA formally transferred the title to the Grey Cup trophy to the CFL.

In 1961, the CFL commenced a partial interlocking schedule in which each Eastern team played at least one game against each Western team, alternating at home and away each year.    In 1967 the CFL set up a central office in Toronto, where it remains today.

(The above was excerpted from Greg Fulton's history of the Canadian Football League, on the CFL website.)

In the 1960s, a number of former CFL players tried their luck at the American version of Professional Football offered by the American Football League.  In the new league, many became journeymen, and several were all-stars.   Because of their influence on the league that was to become the genesis of modern Professional Football in the United States, some of those players are acknowledged here.

CFL league and team logos provided by Klaus Gebhard.
  CFL/AFL player information provided by  Mike Murphy (St. Catharines, ONT), and
Todd Tobias.


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Gino Cappelletti

 
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     The University of Minnesota's Gino Cappelletti played for Sarnia of the Ontario Rugby Football Union in 1955, before stints in 1958 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Regina (Saskatchewan) Rough Riders.
     He went to the AFL's Boston Patriots in 1960 and became one of only twenty players to play the entire ten tears of the AFL, and one of only three to spend their entire AFL career on the same team.  He is the Patriots' all-time leading scorer with 1,130 points

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame


Wray Carlton
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     Unable to come to terms with the NFL, which had selected him in the 1959 NFL draft, Duke running back Wray Carlton traveled to Toronto and the CFL to play for the Argonauts.  His Canadian career lasted only four games before he declined a trade to Vancouver and went home, but another league and another opportunity was in his future.  In his early years with the Buffalo Bills, he formed a virtually unstoppable backfield tandem with Cookie Gilchrist.  He scored the Bills first-ever touchdown against the Denver Broncos in 1960, and led the team in rushing that first year.  Later he  helped the Bills win back-to-back league championships in 1964 and 1965.  Perennially among the AFL's top rushers, he led the league in rushing touchdowns in 1965 and was voted to the American Football League All-Star team in 1965 and 1966.   Carlton was the Bills' all-time leading rusher during their AFL years, with a 4.1 yards per carry average. 


Tom Flores

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       Pacific's Tom Flores played for the Calgary Stampeders in the late 1950s.  When the American Football League was formed, he became the first Hispanic-American quarterback in pro football in the U.S., with the Oakland Raiders.   He became the team's starting quarterback early in the 1960 season and led the AFL, completing 54.0 percent of his passes for 1,738 yards and 12 touchdowns.  He is the fifth-leading passer, all-time, in the AFL.  One of only twenty to play the entire ten years of the AFL, he went on to coach the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins.

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame


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Card image courtesy of Rob Schilling

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       Chester Carlton "Cookie" Gilchrist went from Brackenridge, Pennsylvania's Har-Brac High School to the Cleveland Browns' training camp, in violation of Pro Football rules against signing high school players. 
         After Paul Brown reneged on his promise to play Gilchrist, he went
to Canada, where he starred for eight years in the Ontario Rugby Union and the Canadian Football League.  Playing running back, offensive and defensive end, linebacker, and kicking conversions and field goals, he often played the full sixty minutes of a game. 

       Gilchrist was a CFL All-Star five straight years, with the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 1956 and 1957 , in 1958 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and with the Toronto Argonauts in 1959 and 1960. 
    His two touchdowns helped the Hamilton Tiger-Cats win the 1957 Grey Cup game, and his 115 points for the Toronto Argonauts led the league in 1959.
       Gilchrist recorded 4,911 rushing yards, 1,068 receiving yards and 12 interceptions during his CFL career. 

          Gilchrist went to the American Football League's Buffalo Bills in 1962, when he was the first American Football League player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, (1,096 in a 14-game schedule), earning him league MVP honors. 

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame,
Gilchrist was the only AFL player to make honorable mention
for the "50 Greatest CFL Players" selected in 2006.

Click HERE to sign a petition to put Cookie Gilchrist on the Bills' Wall of Fame

Click HERE to read about Cookie's exploits in Canada
 


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     Roger Hagberg played college football at the University of Minnesota, then went to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, playing for them in the 1962 Grey Cup.  He was with the Oakland Raiders from 1965 through 1969, playing in the second World Championship game against the Packers, making Hagberg the first man to play in both a Grey Cup game and a Super Bowl.


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     Gerry McDougall of UCLA played for the Hamilton Tiger Cats from 1957 through 1961.  In 1962, he played 14 games for the Toronto Argonauts, then played four with the American Football League's San Diego Chargers.
     McDougall was with the Chargers from 1962 through 1964, then returned to Hamilton.  Playing until 1966, he set the team's all-time rushing record of 4,270 yards, until it was broken in 2004 by Troy Davis.


Babe Parilli
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     All-American quarterback Vito "Babe" Parilli of the University of Kentucky was an example of the NFL's lack of player evaluation skills.   A so-called "NFL reject", Parilli quarterbacked the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1958.    He went to the Oakland Raiders in 1960 and later, as a Boston Patriot, became one of the AFL's most productive and colorful players.  He played for the Patriots from 1961 through 1966, and was a three-time AFL All-Star.   In 1964, throwing to fellow Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti, he amassed nearly 3,500 yards passing, with 31 touchdowns.   Parilli completed his career with the New York Jets, where after the 1968 season in Super Bowl III, he earned a World Championship ring as Joe Namath's backup in the destruction of the NFL champion Colts.  He is one of only twenty players who were in the American Football League for its entire ten-year existence.    He is also in the University of Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. 

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame


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     Ernie Warlick was a Negro All-American football star at North Carolina College. From 1957 to 1961, Warlick played as a tight end and defensive back for the Calgary Stampeders and was a three-time West Division all-star during that time.
     He caught 202 passes for 3,332 yards (16.5 yds/catch) with 16 touchdowns.

        He led the Stampeders in catches twice, including in 1959 when he had a career best 53 receptions for 909 yards. He Joined the American Football League's Buffalo Bills in 1962 and was an AFL All-Star 1in all four years he was in the League.   He played in the AFL playoffs from 1963 to 1965, helping the Bills win league championships in 1964 and 1965.
                                                   (Click HERE for Ernie's CFL statistics)

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame


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Last revision: 02 September 2016 ~ Angelo F. Coniglio, nospam.RemembertheAFL@aol.com