HOFer Darren Flutie on CFL: “A more exciting brand of football”

Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver Darren Flutie runs onto the field to celebrate with his teammates their 27-26 victory over the Montreal Alouettes in the Eastern Conference Sunday, Nov. 21, 1999 in Montreal. The Tiger Cats move on to the Grey Cup next weekend in Vancouver. (CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)
(CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)

Talk of Fame Network

In the United States, former wide receiver Darren Flutie is known as Doug’s brother. But in Canada he’s known as a Canadian Football League Hall of Famer who, in 2006, was chosen as one of the top 50 players in that league’s history.

And why not? In 12 years in the CFL he had nine 1,000-yard seasons and so many productive years that he ranks fourth in career catches and yards receiving. So Darren Flutie, who played one season with San Diego in the NFL before going north to join his brother, knows something … no, knows a lot … about the other league.

And what he knows is that there’s plenty about the CFL that makes its game “a more exciting brand of football.” At least that’s what he told the Talk of Fame Network when he joined it for its latest broadcast.

“It’s all meant to give the advantage to the offense,” he said of the CFL game. “The goal with those Canadian Football League rules is to make it a passing game; make it a more exciting brand of football. And I would say to a certain extent it is.

“You’ll never get the level or caliber of players the NFL has. They have the best of the best. But if you open up the game with some great players and make it a wide-open game with a big field and only three downs and receivers moving forward, it’s such an advantage for the passing game. It just creates a level that you really can’t match with other brands of football. You grow to love it. At first it seems awkward. But as a receiver you grow to love it.”

It didn’t take Flutie long. In just half a season with the BC Lions in 1991 he had 52 catches in eight games. Of course, that was with brother Doug throwing. But then Doug left for Calgary, and Darren Flutie was on his own … and he thrived, with eight 1,000-yard seasons in the next nine years – including a career-best in 1994.

But that’s not all. Flutie also won two Grey Cups, the CFL’s equivalent of the Super Bowl – and, to hear him tell it, the thrill of victory there gave him as much satisfaction as if he’d won a Super Bowl in the U.S.

“Oh, it did. It absolutely did,” he said. “We had nine teams in the CFL (at the time). So, just by sheer numbers it’s harder to get to a Super Bowl as it is to get to a Grey Cup. But at the time when I was playing — the 1990s and 2000 and 2001 — we were getting 40,000-50,000 fans at a game. It was an exciting time.

“So to win a championship at that level in the Canadian Football League was huge. But for me personally? Just because of the amount of work I put in (and) the teammates I had, it meant as much as anything could’ve meant. A Super Bowl and a Grey Cup to me are equal.”

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