A look at high profile CFL debuts ahead of Johnny Manziel’s start

Tim and Sid discuss Johnny Manziel's chances of success in the CFL, pointing to some of the greatest quarterbacks the league has seen, and how they performed in their first seasons.

All eyes will be on Johnny Manziel when he makes his CFL debut for the Montreal Alouettes on Friday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback has attracted plenty of media attention on both sides of the border as he attempts to resurrect his career.

Manziel joins a long line of notable American players who have attempted to make their mark in Canadian football. Here’s a look at how some of the big-name player have performed in CFL debuts:


With the running back suspended from the NFL for drug violations, Williams opted to sign with the Toronto Argonauts in 2006. In his first CFL game, Williams rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries and caught two passes for 24 yards as the Argos beat the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats 27-18.

However, Williams didn’t have a huge impact in his one season in the CFL before returning to the NFL. Overall, he ran for 526 yards on 109 carries (4.8-yard average) with two TDs in 11 games. He caught 19 passes for 127 yards.


After two years out of football, the wide receiver signed with the Montreal Alouettes in 2014. In the season opener, Johnson had two receptions for 20 yards on balls thrown by former Heisman Trophy-winning QB Troy Smith as the Als lost 29-8 to the Stampeders in Calgary.

Johnson didn’t do much in the CFL, hauling in seven balls for 151 yards and one TD in 12 games.


After turning his back on the NFL to sign a rich deal with the Argos, the Rocket shined right away in 1991.

He piled up 213 yards, excelling on offence and special teams, as the Argos crushed the visiting Ticats 41-18 before 41,178 fans. The Argos went on to win the Grey Cup that year with Ismail playing a major role, but there wasn’t nearly as much success in his second and final year in the CFL. He made his NFL debut with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1993.


Two years after retiring from the NFL, the defensive end attempted a comeback with the B.C. Lions in 1990.

In his first game, he was ejected after a helmet-swinging incident with Calgary linebacker Dan Wicklum on the way to the dressing room at halftime. The game ended in a 38-38 tie.

Gastineau played just four games with the Lions, registering six tackles.


The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback started his CFL career in the same game as Gastineau, also playing for the Lions.

Flutie’s 37-yard pass to Ray Alexander with one second left in regulation earned the Lions a point.

While Flutie had his struggles in his first year, he went on to one of the greatest CFL careers in history, being named the league’s most outstanding player six times. Flutie returned to the NFL in 1998, leading the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs in both of his seasons as the starting quarterback before the team started a 17-year post-season drought.


After a contract dispute with the Los Angeles Rams, the quarterback came to the Alouettes in 1981.

Ferragamo was 12-of-30 passing for 155 yards in his CFL debut, a 48-8 Montreal loss to B.C. in 1981. He played 13 games with Montreal, completing 175-of-342 passes (51.1 per cent) for 2,182 yards with seven TDs and 25 interceptions, eventually losing his starting job.

Ferragamo returned to the Rams the following season.


After three seasons out of football, the receiver nicknamed Bad Moon signed with the Argos midway through the 2004 season.

The five-time Pro Bowler made his CFL debut on Labour Day, registering a team-high four catches for 49 yards in a 30-30 tie in Hamilton.

Rison played seven games over two seasons for the Argos, finishing with 15 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown before he was released.

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