Ray Nettles wanted to play professional football as a linebacker after culminating his football career at the University of Tennessee in 1972. A native of Jacksonville, Florida, born August 1, 1949, Nettles had been a sixth-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in the NFL draft, but decided to join the B.C. Lions where he ultimately spent nine seasons in the CFL.
After playing a college coaches’ All-Star game in the U.S. he joined the Lions at the beginning of the 1972 season. Following a short stint playing outside linebacker, Nettles became their starting middle linebacker, becoming known as much for his colourful off-field personality as for his on-field feistiness.
He was named to the Western Football Conference’s All-Star teams each of his first three years with B.C., making the CFL All-Star squad in 1972 and 1973. In 1973 he also won the Schenley Award as the CFL’s oustanding lineman after winning the DeMarco-Becket Memorial Trophy as the WFC’s top lineman. A series of injuries slowed him in 1975, when he was named a co-winner of B.C.’s Dietrich Most Inspirational Player award, but he still recorded 112 tackles.
Nettles, 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, was traded to the Toronto Argonauts in 1977. In addition to being named Toronto’s outstanding defensive player he was an Eastern Conference All-Star in 1977, and won the honour again in 1978 as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Nettles completed his 122-game career with a series of one-year stints with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1978), Ottawa Rough Riders (1979) and Calgary Stampeders (1980).