Clemson, USC, Georgia have strong ties to Canadian Football League

Though there are no former Tigers currently active, Perry Tuttle, Joey Walters were CFL stars

Football Recruiting - Former Clemson football player Perry Tuttle and his son, Kanyon Tuttle

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football Recruiting - Former Clemson football player Perry Tuttle and his son, Kanyon Tuttle

If you’re a college football fan (and I bet you are), you are already counting down the days until the 2013 season officially begins on Aug. 29.

If you’re an NFL fan (and you should be), the wait is even shorter since the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys meet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium in Canton on Aug. 4.

But if you’re a Canadian Football League fan (and you could be if you tried), the wait is over.

Tonight the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers meet at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg to begin the CFL preseason.

Kickoff is 8 p.m. so if you live in Anderson and want to catch it live you better get hopping.

It’s a 1,600-mile trip and there are lots of traffic lights between here and Manitoba.

As a longtime fan and follower of the league (I actually covered it in 1995 when Birmingham had a franchise) I like to look over the preseason rosters of the eight teams and find out how many players from Clemson. South Carolina and Georgia are playing for pay north of the border.

If my calculations are correct (and don’t count on it) there are nine former Gamecocks currently in the CFL, four former Bulldogs and no former Tigers.

Since it’s the preseason there will be additions and subtractions to those figures I’m sure, but if fans are looking to follow their collegiate favorites in Canada, it’s USC faithful most likely to find them there.

And since media coverage of the league is sparse in the United States, you sometimes forget just how many good players are making a living in the CFL.

USC is represented by Fred Bennett and Na’Shan Goddard (Calgary), Carlos Thomas (Saskatchewan), Marty Markett and Justin Sorensen (Winnipeg), Brandon Isaac, Jarriel King and Jonathan Williams (Toronto) and D.L. Moore (Montreal).

Carrying the banner for UGA are Rennie Curran and Marcus Howard (Edmonton), Terrence Edwards (Winnipeg) and Kiante Tripp (Toronto).

And the list of local standouts that starred in the CFL is a long one.

Ben Zambiasi was an All-American linebacker at Georgia in the 1950s and went on to play 10 years with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and one with the Argos.

He was honored as the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 1979 and was an eight-time all-star.

In 2004 he was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame.

Clemson has also made its mark in the league that features 12 players to a side, a 55-yard line and gives teams just three downs to make 10 yards.

Perry Tuttle, a star of the 1981 national championship team, had 17 TD catches, 2,534 receiving yards and 150 total receptions as a Tiger. He remains the lone Clemson athlete to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated while enrolled as a student.

He also helped the Winnipeg Bombers win two Grey Cups. His stats with the club — 321 catches for 5,817 yards in six seasons — gave him passage to the team’s hall of fame in 1997.

And wideout Joey Walters, also a star receiver at Clemson, had a nice career in Canada — one good enough for his name to be added to the Saskatchewan Roughriders Plaza of Honor.

I admit I’m guilty of largely abandoning the CFL once the NFL and college seasons get cranked up.

I still keep track of it; I just don’t track it on a daily basis.

But this is a very good league, one that was founded in 1958 and is relatively stable.

While other “alternative” circuits have come and gone, the CFL remains the one viable alternative for players who are not in the NFL but still want to make a living playing quality outdoor football.

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