May 10, 2018

‘Toughest player’ convo starts and ends with Mike Reilly

The Canadian Press

TORONTO — It may feel repetitive and even cliché to say that Mike Reilly is the Canadian Football League’s toughest player.

Yet as training camps approach and the fourth season of Best in the League officially launches, is there any possible answer other than the fearless No. 13, quarterback of the Green and Gold?

Reilly’s reputation as CFL tough guy precedes him because every year, when we talk about the league’s toughest players, Reilly is there on the field backing it up.

Early in his Eskimos career he was the subject highlight packs showing earth-shattering hits, with the young beardless signal-caller popping back up every time to lead the offensive huddle.

» Season 4 of Best in the League is here
» Bio: Mike Reilly by the numbers
» Sunderland, Maas extensions mean long-term stability

Toughness in football is subjective, and what many football people will call an intangible measure. But when it’s obvious, the ripple effect it causes on teammates is plain to see. Many of Reilly’s teammates have talked about his never-give-up attitude as a source of inspiration. Defensive players and offensive teammates rally around a player who will do anything for his team.

While Reilly has fought through injuries in the past, he’s gotten through the last two seasons without having to miss any significant time, playing 35 of his 36 possible games, missing one as a healthy scratch while resting up for the playoffs in 2016.

Last year, despite facing the most pressures of any quarterback in the CFL (the Eskimos allowed 134 last season, the third-most in the league just below Hamilton and BC), Reilly played all 18 games for the first time in his career and won Most Outstanding Player honours. In addition to his impressive passing statistics, he also made plays with his feet, rushing 97 times for 390 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns.

There are certainly other players overshadowed by Reilly’s continued status as one of the league’s toughest players. As players and fans weigh in, you may also hear Matt Nichols‘ name, along with that of C.J. Gable and Ricky Ray, among others.


Gable has fought through injuries his entire career, becoming one of the most productive running backs in the CFL, while Nichols played through a finger injury but was still productive during the Bombers’ run to the Western Semi-Final.

Ricky Ray has been a glutton for punishment over the last few years for the Argos, taking some devastating hits but always getting back up, even when he suffered apparent rib and lung injuries two years ago during the Labour Day Classic in Hamilton. Ray finished the game, but was diagnosed with injuries that would keep him off the field for most of the remainder of the season.

On the defensive side of the ball, linebackers Alex Singleton and Solomon Elimimian could be considered for the ‘Best in the League’ title, dishing out punishing hits week in and week out while filling one of the most physically-demanding jobs in football.

And a shout out, finally, to the offensive linemen, who are under physical duress each and every game from opposing defensive lines.

Who’s your pick for toughest player in the CFL? The video comes out Friday but in the meantime, we ask you to weigh in.

Fan Poll
Who is the toughest player in the CFL?
Mike Reilly
C.J. Gable
Matt Nichols
Ricky Ray