Making it to the big show isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Even if you get drafted or signed after the NFL Draft, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have a long illustrious career in the NFL. But, lucky for some, there are other options.
The Canadian Football League has become a viable option for many Mountaineers. Currently eight West Virginia players are on rosters in the CFL.
The CFL shouldn’t be looked at as a step down but simply as an outlet to continue your football career.
After going undrafted, WVU safety Darwin Cook announced after the NFL Draft that he’d be entering the CFL Draft. He was later signed by the Cleveland Browns but the simple fact that he wasted no time in choosing the CFL as his next best option.
So, too, have former Mountaineer greats finally seen that the CFL is a viable option for continuing their play.
This offseason, Steve Slaton, Pat White and Brandon Hogan signed deals in the CFL. The move for them comes after once being drafted into the NFL, Slaton having a stellar rookie season in Houston. Others, like Selvish Capers, Morty Ivy and Kent Richardson also turned to the CFL after spending time on NFL rosters, Capers winning a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants. And then there’s players like Jock Sanders and Scooter Berry, who signed undrafted free agent deals with teams following the NFL Draft but, after not making the team, turned to the CFL and have found success.
The move for players like Slaton could be a humbling one after being drafted in the top three rounds of the draft. But players have often used the CFL as a fill-in or audition back into the NFL.
Players like Ricky Williams have sandwiched a CFL career in between successful portions of an NFL career. Mike Sellers, who went undrafted, also spent time in the CFL in between stints with the Washington Redskins.
Most notable in Mountaineer Nation is Ellis Lankster.
Lankster was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 7th round of the 2009 NFL Draft but then ended up with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2010. Following that, he made a comeback to the NFL, where he’s been with the New York Jets since 2011.
Most recently, West Virginia running back Noel Devine is using his recent CFL success as a precursor to an NFL career.
Following the 2011 NFL Draft, Devine was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles but decided to leave the team before the season. From there, Devine went to the UFL before finding a home in Montreal in the CFL. Now, he’s trying out with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL.
The CFL is a growing spectacle among Mountaineer fans, who can tune in to almost any game and be able to see their favorite players suited up. But for the players themselves, it could be a second chance to play the game they love.