ACC Alumni in the CFL

It seems as if there’s always football on television somewhere. No matter what day of the week it is, there are high school, college, or professional teams knocking heads somewhere. As football-crazed as American culture has become, we often forget about our friends to the north where they have their very own football ecosystem that culminates in the Canadian Football League.

The rules are slightly different including field size and the fact that the goal posts are in play up in Canada, but those things were both the case in early American football as well. My point being, it’s still football and there are a lot of good football players up there.

Of course, the league isn’t just comprised of the best talent in the provinces but also quite a few names that college football fans will recognize. Miami leads the way among ACC schools with six players and 11 of the conference’s 13 football programs have at least one player in the CFL with just Boston College and Pittsburgh currently lacking a representative. So crack open a Molson and bask in the warm glow of the spiffy new CFL logo as we take you around the league.


The glamour position is well represented from some big names you might be surprised to find still playing. By far the most successful Quarterback has been former North Carolina signal-caller Darian Durant. The 33-year-old has had a nice career for the Saskatchewan Roughriders where he’s passed for 24,668 yards and 135 touchdowns in nine seasons. He’s also run for 2,614 yards and 16 scores. His best overall season came in 2013 when he threw for 4,154 yards with 35 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Jacory Harris (Miami), Brian Brohm (Louisville), Tajh Boyd (Clemson), Anthony Boone (Duke), and Adrian McPherson (Florida State) are all backups in the league. Brohm was considered one of the top prospects in 2007 before he chose to return to school for his final season. He was later selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. McPherson is the most surprising name here by far. He played just two seasons at Florida State and was later dismissed after he was arrested and charged with stealing and forging a signature on a blank check, charges to which he later pleaded no contest. There were related gambling accusations as well, but he still got a cup of coffee in the NFL and was later named the Arena League Rookie of the Year which is proof positive that talent often trumps baggage.

Running Backs

Former Georgia Tech back Anthony Allen is the star here. In his rookie season, Allen gained 930 yards on the ground and 244 yards receiving with eight total touchdowns. His numbers fell off this past year with Saskatchewan, but in total he’s gained 1,504 yards on the ground while averaging better than 5.7 yards per carry.

The only other ACC alumnus at running back is Michael Dyer who finished his college career at Louisville after off the field issues saw him bounced from Auburn and Arkansas State. Dyer was signed by the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2015, but never played in an NFL game. He signed with the Toronto Argonauts at the beginning of February.


Clemson alum Jacoby Ford just inked a deal with the Edmonton Eskimos after spending time with the Raiders, Packers, and Titans organizations. He was long considered one of the fastest players in the NFL and that’s no surprise given his successful track and field background.

Taj Smith is the only player from Syracuse in the CFL. He spent time with the Packers and Colts before heading to Canada where he’s had some success posting 2,188 yards and 13 touchdowns over four seasons with Saskatchewan. He put up a career-high 1,007 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013, but he took a step back statistically in 2014 and only played in four games this season.

Defensive Lineman

Louisville product Roy Philon has signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after brief stints with the Detroit and Pittsburgh organizations. He tallied 116 tackles and 24.5 sacks in his four seasons for the Cardinals. Virginia graduate Nate Collins is also a member of Winnipeg where he finished with nine tackles and a sack in four games this season. Apparently the Blue Bombers love ACC lineman because former Tar Heel Ethan Farmer is also on the roster though he saw limited action last season.

The most successful ACC representative hails from N.C. State in the form of Alan-Michael Cash. In four seasons with the Montreal Alouettes, he’s racked up 117 total tackles with 15 sacks, two forced fumbles and impressively two interceptions.

Defensive Backs and Linebackers

Former Miami corner Bruce Johnson has been terrific in his two seasons with Winnipeg. In 2015, he finished with 67 tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble. A number of Hokies are on the list at this spot, led by Macho Harris. Harris is coming off his best season of pro ball when he put together 58 tackles, three interceptions, four sacks, and a touchdown for Saskatchewan. He just signed on with Winnipeg where he’ll try to improve on his career-best 2015 campaign.

One puzzling note is that Eddie Whitley, another former Tech defensive back recently signed on with the Toronto Argonauts. The odd part is that he’s listed as a linebacker despite his 6′, 187-pound frame.

The most successful “true” linebacker from the ACC is Louisville’s Malik Jackson who has amassed 236 tackles, 14 sacks, and six forced fumbles for the Calgary Stampeders and the Ottawa Redblacks.

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