In the last three months you’ve probably seen, read, and watched an overload of “best of the decade” sports lists — they’re a trendy and easily-debated topic.
While the list below could fall under the “best of” category, I’m adding my own twist. I’m naming the CFL players who most represent the 2010s, rather than ranking the top 10.
CFL Players Representing the 2010s
The sure Hall of Famer suited up for nine of the 10 seasons last decade, playing seven years in Toronto and two in Edmonton. Ray passed for over 28,000 yards and was one touchdown shy of 150 for the decade, ranking in the decade’s top five in both categories.
Ray only received two CFL All-Star nominations in the 2010s. Most impressively, he batted 100 per cent in his two Grey Cup games, defeating the Calgary Stampeders both times (2012 and 2017). His career ended with a scary neck injury, but Ray was a staple of the 2010s and him being the last quarterback remaining in my bracket proves his legacy.
Playing in all 10 seasons, Harris is undeniably the CFL’s running back of the decade. His 9,000-plus rushing yards is impressive, but where he blows his competition out of the water is through the air, racking up 5,107 receiving yards in the 2010s.
Just like Ray, Harris is two for two in his Grey Cup appearances (2011 and 2019). He has five CFL All-Star nominations and a Most Outstanding Canadian (M.O.C.) award to go along with his team accomplishments. If not for a positive PED test this past season, Harris may have added a second M.O.C and even a Most Outstanding Player (M.O.P) to his name.
Green is hands down the CFL’s receiver of the decade, and having the best hands of the decade is his cherry on top. S.J.’s 9,869 yards through the air is by far the most during the 2010s, with only two others even reaching 8,000 (Andy Fantuz and Adarius Bowman).
Along with the near thousand yards per season, Green piled up 57 touchdowns and was a two-time CFL All-Star. Oh, and just like Ray and Harris, Green is two for two in the CFL’s big dance, winning a Grey Cup with Montreal in 2010 and with Toronto in 2017.
Bighill broke out as a CFL star in 2012, his second year in the league. His 655 tackles are the third-most for by a player in the 2010s (Solomon Elimimian and Chip Cox). Bighill’s also recorded 41 sacks, 12 interceptions, and two touchdowns in his eight seasons.
After an NFL stint in 2017, Bighill returned to the CFL a year later to win his second Most Outstanding Defensive Player (M.O.D.P.) award in his first of two seasons with Winnipeg. The former B.C. Lion is a five-time CFL All-star, and you guessed it — he’s two for two in his Grey Cup appearances, winning with B.C. in 2011 and Winnipeg in 2019.
Hughes gets better with age, plain and simple. The 12-year veteran has put up double-digit sacks in his last five seasons, and seven of his last 10. He racked up a league-high 119 over the past decade, along with 383 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 30 forced fumbles.
The 36-year-old is the CFL’s best defensive end of the decade and came up just short to Bighill in my bracket as the last remaining defensive player. He’s showing no signs of slowing down and needs 28 more sacks to become the league’s all-time leader.
Stanley Bryant Jr.
Bryant Jr.’s 10 years of CFL dominance aren’t overlooked. Still, as an underrated 11 seed, the CFL’s offensive lineman of the decade stormed his way into the final eight of my bracket, giving the two-time Most Oustanding Lineman (M.O.L.) a worthy Cinderella run.
Bryant Jr.’s played 156 CFL games, an incredible feat in itself. The left tackle is a five-time CFL All-Star, splitting his CFL career with Calgary and Winnipeg. Wherever Bryant goes, success follows as he’s won two Grey Cups (2014 and 2019) in three appearances.
Out of all CFL players, none had more yards in the 2010s than Mike Reilly. He threw for 31,522 yards, adding 168 touchdowns and 99 interceptions in six seasons with Edmonton and four with B.C. The hard-nosed quarterback won his first and only M.O.P. in 2017.
2015 was also a special year for Reilly, winning his first Grey Cup as a starter. Reilly got his first ring in 2011 with B.C., albeit as a back up. Regardless, he’s also in that reoccurring “two for two” category in Grey Cup games and was also a CFL All-Star in 2017.
Consistent and dominant are two words that describe Brendon LaBatte, the Canadian guard who suited up for a remarkable 181 games in the 2010s. The 12-year veteran got his recognition in 2013, winning both a Grey Cup and the league’s M.O.L. with Saskatchewan.
LaBatte’s a six-time CFL All-Star and a was a divisional All-Star in eight of the 10 seasons this decade. Like Bryant, LaBatte also made it to the final eight of my bracket as the second-last Canadian player left — the respect he deserves.
Bo Levi Mitchell
Mitchell’s one of two CFL players to collect two M.O.P.s in the 2010s (2016 and 2018). His 27,937 yards rank fifth for the decade, but his efficiency sets him apart, ranking second in touchdowns with 169 while tossing 70 interceptions, the 2010s’ second-best TD-INT ratio.
Mitchell is arguably the CFL’s face of the 2010s but was bounced in the round of 16 in my bracket, perhaps from some likeability and championship issues. While he’s won two Grey Cups, he appeared in five in the 2010s and had some struggles in the three losses.
Burris is the second player with two M.O.P.s from the 2010s (2010 and 2015). No player averaged more yards per season than Burris (4,393), putting up over 30,000 passing yards in just seven years. Burris also threw the most touchdowns last decade with 176.
Smilin’ Hank went one for three in his Grey Cup games last decade. He retired in dramatic fashion after an overtime win over Calgary for the 2016 championship. Burris played for three teams in the 2010s, reaching the Grey Cup with Calgary, Hamilton, and Ottawa.
Elimimian had over 150 tackles more than any CFL player last decade. His 855 tackles in the 2010s were felt by many CFL players, as most were rather hard hits. Elimimian played all 10 seasons during the decade, playing nine for B.C. and one for Saskatchewan.
Most impressively, the 2011 Grey Cup champ has got a collection of league awards such as a four-time CFL All-Star, two-time M.O.D.P winner (2014 and 2016), a Most Oustanding Rookie award in 2010, and the only defensive player to ever win an M.O.P. (2014).
Kickers need love too, and no special teamer did it better in the 2010s than Justin Medlock. The nine-year veteran played eight seasons last decade, winning his first and only Grey Cup game in 2019 with the team he’s spent the past four years with — Winnipeg.
Money Medlock’s a two-time CFL All-Star who piled up over 26,600 net yards punting while connecting on over 86 per cent of his field goals in the decade and in his career. As a 16 seed in my bracket, Medlock was mighty close to knocking off S.J. Green in the first round.
The Player of the 2010s
While these 12 players rightfully represent the decade (11 of which made up the final 16 of my bracket), the best has yet to be crowned. As of the release of this piece, my bracket’s down to its final four: Ricky Ray, Andrew Harris, S.J. Green, and Adam Bighill.
But who should be the one player that represents the CFL’s 2010s when looking back? Make sure your vote counts, as the final four begins tomorrow with 48-hour voting periods.
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