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The Maple Leaf Touchdown: Canada’s Impact and Presence in the NFL

Dec 8, 2023

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While the United States of America has long served as a global trendsetter, helping to spur the latest fashions and fads, one American export that has notably struggled to succeed abroad is the National Football League. In spite of the league’s best efforts to buck that trend with international series games in London, Mexico City, Toronto and Frankfurt, Germany, the NFL has never really managed to catch on outside of the United States.

American football has seen the most success when exported to Canada, with quite a few of our northern neighbors making a name for themselves playing America’s favorite sport. Here’s a look at some noteworthy Canadian NFL players, including a Pro Football Hall of Famer and a controversial social media sensation.

Chase Claypool, Miami Dolphins

From a physical standpoint, Claypool seems like he was created in a lab with the sole purpose of playing football. Born in Abbotsford, British Columbia in 1998, the talented wide receiver stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 238 pounds. He’s a freak of nature who can run a 40 yard dash in 4.42 seconds despite his hulking frame, and his 40.5 inch vertical jump means he can go up to catch passes that would be out of reach for most other players.

Claypool earned the nickname ‘Mapletron’ after Hall of Fame wideout Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson, a reference to the national symbol of the country of his birth and his imposing stature. Unfortunately, the young receiver has struggled to live up to expectations after a breakout rookie season. Claypool quickly earned a reputation of being a diva, clashing with coaches and teammates and even getting into fights at house parties. The Pittsburgh Steelers got tired of Claypool during the 2022 season and traded him to the Chicago Bears. Claypool lasted less than a year in his second stint, calling his coaches out for putting him in a bad position after he received heavy criticism for a lack of effort. The Bears eventually dismissed him from the team, telling him to stay home instead of taking part in their next game, before trading him to the Miami Dolphins for pennies on the dollar.

If Claypool can ever manage to salvage his career, the Dolphins just might be the place for him to do so. They’re one of the best teams in the league, listed with the fourth-best odds of winning this year’s Super Bowl (+700) at betting sites in Canada. So far, however, Claypool hasn’t had many opportunities to step on the field.

Bronco Nagurski, Chicago Bears

Bronco Nagurski was born in Rainy River, Ontario in 1908, moving just across the border to International Falls, Minnesota as a five-year old. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s first-ever class in 1963, Nagurski won three NFL Championships with the Chicago Bears in the 1930s and 1940s.

A true product of his era, the 6-foot-2, 226 pound standout played a number of positions during his professional career, including defensive tackle, offensive tackle and fullback. Nagurski was famed for his hard-hitting style, described as hitting like a tank, but he could also do wonders with the ball in his hands, racking up more than 4,000 yards in nine seasons in the NFL.

Those numbers aren’t super impressive when compared to today’s standards, but it’s important to remember that Nagurski was a product of his time: teams didn’t march up and down the field in the 1930s like they do today, and his shared duties on the offensive and defensive lines took away from the time he could spend as the primary ball carrier. Nagurski helped create one of the league’s first dynasties, and deserves proper recognition for doing so.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Kansas City Chiefs

A native of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Duvernay-Tardif played offensive guard for the Kansas City Chiefs for parts of six seasons. He won a Super Bowl with the team in 2019, his last year in the NFL, but may be more noteworthy for his actions off the field. While in the NFL, Duvernay-Tardif spent his offseasons attending medical school at his alma mater, Montreal’s McGill University, and ended up opting out of the 2020 NFL season because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Instead, Duvernay-Tardif returned to Canada to help combat the raging pandemic, forgoing the millions he could make on the field in order to make a difference off of it.

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Since then, he’s continued to further his medical education, earning a prestigious Master of Public Health degree from Harvard.

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