Go For the Rouge! MAC Players in the CFL

The CFL season began last weekend, with plenty of former MAC stars on their rosters. - Jeff Vinnick

It's football season north of the border, and there is no shortage of former MAC players on CFL rosters.

Now that hockey season has come to an end, Canada turns its attention to its second favorite professional sport, and no despite what you may may have heard, it's not Professional Moose Hunting. It's the Canadian Football League! Which is just aboot the most exciting thing you can watch if you're looking for some professional MACtion. I mean, just look at some of these highlights:

And if that doesn't have you excited to watch some CFL action, just try and wrap your head around this play:

If that isn't the definition of MACtion in a professional sense, then I don't know what is!

Now, we won't go into all of the rules, and differences of the CFL compared to football down here, but rather, we are here to take a look at what some of your favorite MAC players from years gone by are up to. The leagued kicked off its regularly season this past weekend, and featured 24 former MAC players among the eight teams in the league.

Akron

If you can believe it, Akron, arguably the worst MAC team in recent years, has the most players on CFL rosters, with a total of six.

Almondo Sewell - Edmonton Eskimos

Sewell was the second player in Akron history to be named a three-time All-Mid-American Conference. And in four seasons with the Zips, 2006-2009, he registered 223 tackles.

This is his third season in the CFL, all with Edmonton. Last year, he started 16 of 18 games for the Eskimos, totaling 31 tackles, and six sacks, and was named a West Division All-Star. Sewell registered three tackles in the Eskimos opening week loss to Saskatchewan.

Bryan Williams - Edmonton Eskimos

Currently in his rookie year in the CFL, Williams finds himself on the Edmonton practice squad. He was converted from running back to defensive back before his senior season at Akron, and went on to record 78 tackles that season. Since his career at Akron, he has bounced around from NFL, to the Arena League, before finding a home in the CFL this season.

Shawn Lemon - Calgary Stampeders

Lemon played four seasons at Akron and was a three-year starter. As a senior, he was All-Mid American Conference, leading the Zips with seven sacks and four fumble recoveries.

This is Lemon's third team in three seasons in the CFL, and looks to build on a promising 2012 that saw him register six sacks, which tied for the team lead, and two fumble recoveries for the Edmonton Eskimos.

Jabari Arthur - Calgary Stampeders

Arthur graduated from Akron in 2007, and at the time of graduation, held the school records for receptions and yards. After his career at Akron, he was a first round pick by Calgary in the 2007 draft.

This will be Arthur's sixth year in the CFL, all with Calgary. He has caught 46 passes during his CFL time, and one touchdown. He contributed nicely for Calgary last year in the CFL playoffs, when he caught four passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. He caught one pass for 15 yards in the season opener.

Jermaine Reid - Toronto Argonauts

Another Akron defensive lineman, Reid finished his Akron career in 2005, and during his senior season he led the team in sacks with seven, and also tackles for loss with 13.5.

Reid is entering his seventh season in the CFL, and was originally a second round draft pick of the Hamilton Tiger cats in 2006. In his career he has totaled 51 tackles to go with eight sacks. This will be his first season in Toronto after spending time with Hamilton and Edmonton earlier in his career.

Jalil Carter - Toronto Argonauts

Carter was a defensive back at Akron for his first three years before he became a wide receiver. His career at Akron finished up in 2010, and prior to the CFL, he had brief stints in the NFL, and AFL.

Carter enters his second season with the Argonauts, after a rookie season that saw him start four times in the regular season. In the playoffs, he started two of the three games, and recorded five tackles in each game, helping Toronto capture the Grey Cup.

Buffalo

Ernest Jackson - BC Lions

Jackson was solid, and steady over his career at Buffalo, totaling 116 career catches, and 11 touchdowns before graduating in 2008. He also had one kickoff return for a touchdown during his time with the Bulls.

He enters his second season in the CFL after a solid start to his career in 2012. In 10 games with the BC Lions, Jackson hauled in 27 catches to go with 347 yards, and one touchdown. He also averaged almost 11 yards per carry, and chipped in one rushing touchdown.

Drew Willy - Saskatchewan RoughRiders

One of the greatest players in Buffalo Bulls history, Willy left the school with nearly every record, and was a four-year starter. He set school records for completions, attempts, passing yards, touchdowns, total offense, and completion percentage. Since leaving Buffalo, Willy has played for two different NFL teams, and had a stint in the UFL before finding his way to the CFL.

This is Willy's second season in the CFL, where he is the backup for Saskatchewan. In 2012, he dressed for all 18 games, and even started two games. He went 69 or 95, good for a 72.6 completion percentage, and had five touchdowns versus four interceptions. He also had four rushing touchdowns last season. He appeared in the 2013 opener, going 2-of-3 for 38 yards.

Central Michigan

The Chippewas boast the second most MAC players in the CFL with five, many of them coming from the golden era of CMU football.

Eric Fraser - Calgary Stampeders

During his CMU career, Fraser appeared in 40 games, a totaled 189 tackles, and four interceptions. His best game was against Miami in the 2008 MAC Championship, where he recorded 10 tackles and an interception.

Fraser is in his fourth season in the CFL, all with Calgary. After being a special teams ace in his first two years, Fraser had his best year in 2012, when he started 17 games, and finished fourth on the team in tackles with 48, and recorded two interceptions, one he took back for his first touchdown, and helped the Stampeders reach the Grey Cup, where they lost to Toronto. In week one of 2013, Fraser had one tackle, and one pass break-up.

Carl Volny - Winnipeg Blue Bombers

CMU during the Dan LeFevour era never had backs who put up big numbers, due to splitting carries, and LeFevour running often, case in point Volny, who during his four years finished with 933 yards, and eight touchdowns, despite averaging nearly five yards per carry in his senior year. After his time at CMU, Volny was selected in the fifth round of the CFL draft by Winnipeg.

Volny is entering his third year with the Blue Bombers, where he has mainly been a reserve back. In his first two seasons, he has carried the ball 34 times for 155 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He has yet to record a touchdown in the CFL. Volny dressed for week one of the season, but did not register a carry.

Kito Poblah - Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The forgotten receiver of the Dan LeFevour era, stuck behind guys like Bryan Anderson, and Antonio Brown, Poblah was a team captain his senior year, and registered 154 catches, 1,908 yards, and 15 touchdowns in his CMU career. He also had a streak of 36 straight games with a catch.

Poblah was drafted by Winnipeg in the 2011 CFL Supplemental Draft, and enters his third season in the CFL, all with Winnipeg. Poblah was injured often in his first season, and managed 10 catches for 99 yards. In 2012, his role expanded and he started 17 games, hauling in 41 catches for 417 yards, and recorded his first touchdown in the CFL. Poblah spent the opening week of the 2013 season on the injured list.

Greg Wojt - Hamilton TigerCats

Wojt played at CMU from 2005-2008, and appeared in 30 games for the maroon and gold, and was the starter at right tackle during his final two seasons.

Wojt is entering his fifth season in the CFL, and his first with Hamilton after being traded by Edmonton, the team who drafted him in 2008. Wojt has developed into one of the leagues better linemen. In 2011 he started 14 games, was named to the West Division All-Stars and was voted Edmonton's offensive lineman of the year. Wojt helped Edmonton reach the playoffs last season, and will be starting at right guard for Hamilton in 2013.

Dan LeFevour - Hamilton TigerCats

Arguably the greatest quarterback in MAC history, the list of accolades for LeFevour is so long, we could spend an entire post just on those. From the Hamilton TigerCats team site:

"threw for 12,905 yards and 102 touchdowns while rushing for 2,948 yards and 47 touchdowns...completed 1171 of 1763 (66.4%) of his pass attempts...also caught three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown...set a FBS record for total touchdowns with 150 (102 passing, 47 rushing, 1 receiving)...he is the only player in NCAA history with 12,000 career passing yards and 2,500 career rushing yards...holds MAC career records for total offense, passing yards, touchdown passes, completions and attempts... one of two players in CMU history to earn All-MAC honours four straight seasons...named the MAC's Vern Smith Leadership Award winner as the conference player of the year and the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, the MAC Championship Game Offensive Player of the Game, the GMAC Bowl Most Valuable Player, as well as CMU's Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, Most Valuable Offensive Back and Kurt Dobronski Award winner in 2009...named the MAC Freshman of the Year in 2006...in 2007, he became just the second player in NCAA history (Vince Young, Texas) to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season."

So yeah. He was pretty good.

But LeFevour has found life difficult after CMU, bouncing around, and having stops with four different NFL teams before coming to the CFL last season. He spent all of 2012 as the TigerCats backup, dressing for every game, and appeared in his first game on June 29 of last season. LeFevour will be the primary backup for Hamilton this season, behind Henry Burris, so if an injury should happen LeFevour takes over. LeFevour is yet to throw a pass in a CFL regular season game.

Eastern Michigan

Another school, who despite not having much success lately, has a solid stock of guys in the CFL, with four players currently on rosters.

Jabar Westerman - BC Lions

Westerman came to Eastern as a transfer and played two seasons for the Eagles. In those two seasons, he was able to rack up 48 tackles, nine of which were for a loss, and five and a half sacks.

Westerman enjoyed a solid rookie year in 2012 with the Lions, as one of the first guys off the bench on the defensive line. He appeared in every game in 2012, starting five, and picking up 14 tackles, to go with five sacks, and was named the West Division's Most Outstanding Rookie. In 2013, Westerman started the opener for the Lions at defensive tackle, but did not record a tackle.

Corey Watman - Saskatchewan RoughRiders

Watman spent four years with the Eagles, and started all 12 games his senior year, shifting between guard and centre (Canadian spelling!). During his time at Eastern, he totalled 30 starts on their offensive line before graduating this past spring.

Watman was a first round pick, fourth overall, by Saskatchewan in this years draft. He is currently listed as the team's backup centre on the depth chart.

Johnny Sears - Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Sears came to Eastern as a transfer from the University of Michigan, and made his mark during his senior year, when he started nine games and recorded 37 tackles, seven pass breakups, and even blocked a punt. Sears was also used a punt and kick returner at EMU.

Sears is entering his fourth year in the CFL, all with Winnipeg, and had a breakout year in 2012. After just nine tackles, and one interception in his first two season, Sears had a great year in 2012, in 15 games he picked up 50 tackles, led team with three interceptions and 10 pass breakups. Sears will begin the year on the Winnipeg injured list.

Eris Deslauriers - Montreal Alouettes

Deslauriers, French for, The Delorean, had a very decorated career at Eastern Michigan, finishing up with 235 catches, 3,042 yards, and 26 touchdowns from 2004 to 2006. His best year was 2004, when he caught 84 balls for 1,257 yards, and 13 touchdowns, all that was only good enough for second-team All-MAC. After his career at EMU, he had a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers, before he was signed by Montreal.

This will be Deslauriers seventh season in the CFL, all with the Alouettes. So far in his career, he has caught 63 passes for 873 yards, and three touchdowns in the regular season. His best year was his rookie year, when he caught 23 balls for 325 yards, and a touchdown. In Montreal's season opener, Deslauriers caught two passes for eight yards.

UMass*

I put an asterisk by UMass, because while UMass is in the MAC now, none of their players currently in the CFL ever played in the MAC.

Keron Williams - BC Lions

Williams was a monster at UMass, and was a two-time All-A10 selection. His senior year saw 56 tackles, 11 of which were for loss. He ended his UMass career with 12 sacks.

This will be Williams' eighth season in the CFL, his fourth in BC after starting his career in Calgary and Montreal, he has been a monster since joining the league, and has been named an All-Star in four separate seasons. Since his rookie year, he has totaled 52 sacks, including three seasons with 10 or more. He has also appeared in three Grey Cup Finals. In the opening week of the season, he picked up two tackles.

Anton McKenzie - BC Lions

McKenzie was a tackling machine during his time at UMass, then a 1-AA school, totaling 320 tackles, and 10 sacks during his four years with the school. He started all 12 games during his senior year.

McKenzie is entering his eighth year in the CFL, and has developed into one of the best linebackers in the league. After seeing duty as a backup in his first two years, he blew up once given the chance to start. In the opening week of 2013, he played in his 100th CFL game, and for his career has made 375 tackles, and 12 sacks. He is a two-time west division All-Star, and in 2011 led the CFL in tackles for loss. Since signing with BC in 2009, he has missed just three games.

Brandon London - Montreal Alouettes

When he left UMass in 2006, he was one of their more decorated receivers, leaving the program second in yards, third in catches, and fourth in touchdowns. From 2007 to 2010, he bounced around the NFL, playing for the Giants, Dolphins, and Steelers, before coming to Montreal in 2010.

Entering his fourth season, he has emerged as a deep threat for Montreal. He was on their practice squad in 2010, and in 2011 he caught 38 passes for 475, and one touchdown. In 2012 he was Montreal's deep threat, upping his catches to 44, and boosting his yards to 848, good for 19.3 yards per catch to lead the team, in addition to three touchdown catches. In the 2013 opener, he caught three passes for 36 yards.

Northern Illinois

Courtney Stephen - Hamilton TigerCats

Stephen was actually a stand out in Canadian college football before he transferred to NIU, where he appeared in 16 games during his three seasons as a Huskie. During his time at NIU, he had just 17 tackles, one interception, and one blocked kick.

Stephen came to Hamilton as a second round pick in the 2012 CFL draft, and is in his first season with the team. He will begin the year on the injured list.

OHIO

Chris Garrett - Winnipeg

Garrett was actually known more for his kick return abilities as a Bobcat, totaling over 2,000 return yards, and picking up three touchdowns. But he was also a solid running back, picking up 1,346 yards, over four yards per carry, and seven touchdowns during his four years in Athens.

Entering his fourth CFL season, he was signed as a free agent by Winnipeg in 2010, and had 19 carries for 113 yards, good for 5.9 yards per carry, in his rookie season. In 2011 his role expanded, he picked up 92 carries for 576 yards, and scored four touchdowns for the Blue Bombers. In 2012, he was slated to be the starting running back, but a torn Achilles kept him out for the entire year. He will begin the 2013 season on the injured list.

Chip Cox - Montreal

Chip Cox played for the Bobcats from 2000 to 2004, where he had 240 career tackles, 29 passes broken up, and he also blocked three field goals. After his time at Ohio, he had a brief stint with the Detroit Lions, before signing with Montreal in 2006, which led to a tryout with the Washington Redskins later that year.

Entering his eighth season in the CFL, Cox is one of the premier linebackers in the league. He has spent every season with Montreal, and has twice been named the team's Defensive Player of the Year, in 2010 and 2011. He constantly finds himself among the league leaders in forced fumbles, leading the CFL in the category in 2009 and 2010. For his career he has amassed 492 tackles, 16 interceptions, and scored five defensive touchdowns. He has been named a CFL All-Star three times, and has two Grey Cup titles.

Toledo

Nick Moore - BC Lions

Moore was a two-time All-MAC selection during his time with the Rockets, and set the then conference record for catches in a game with 20, helping lead Toledo to a 13-10 upset of Michigan in 2008. At the time his Rockets career ended, he was fourth on the school's list for receptions with 182. Nick went undrafted and had tryouts with three NFL teams before signing in the CFL.

2013 will be Moore's third season in the CFL, all with the BC Lions, and he has seen his role expand with them in every year. In 2011 he finally saw the field, but caught only five passes for 50 yards. But in 2012, he broke out, especially over the second half of the season, for 2012 he upped his numbers to 32 catches, 399 yards, and three touchdowns. Moore will be looked at often in 2013, and in the BC Lions' season opener, he hauled in five passes for 55 yards.

So there you have it, all 24 of the MAC alums currently on CFL rosters. There are five schools, Ball State, Bowling Green, Kent State, Miami, and Western Michigan, with no players currently in the CFL.

If you are interested in following some of these former MAC standouts, here is the link to the CFL's US broadcast schedule.

For your CFL rooting interests, here's a breakdown of MAC players on each CFL team:

BC Lions - 5

Winnipeg - 4

Calgary - 3

Hamilton - 3

Montreal - 3

Edmonton - 2

Saskatchewan - 2

Toronto - 2

We here at Hustle Belt will try to keep you up to date on all the latest happenings from these MAC players as the CFL season continues.

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