The CFL has a new member of the 200 club. Someone stepping into the running backs edition of that club. Which, as we shall see is a very exclusive club indeed.
Football is so exacting, so physically and emotionally demanding that I believe longevity like this is one of the most incredible personal milestones to reach.
An Exclusive Club
One of the key points discussed in O’Leary’s article was how few people have played 200+ games in the league. It worked out at about one per cent of players in CFL history.
Pretty exclusive territory. But McCarty is in even more rarefied company as he is only the 4th running back ever to record 200 career games.
The only other running backs have hit the 200-plus games are Jeff Johnson (234), Chris Szarka (223) and George Reed (203). That makes 4 people out of 10,000+ CFL players.
Or to put it another way less than a third of one per cent of all the players in the entirety of CFL history are running backs who have plied their trade for over 200 games.
A Durable Quartet
So we know the names of our durable quartet but let’s look a little deeper. Who did they play for? When did they play, and what were their biggest achievements? Let’s find out!
Jeff Johnson was an undrafted free agent following the 2000 CFL draft. The 5′ 9″ 206 lb running back out of York University was picked up by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats who he played for over two seasons, 2000-2001.
In 2002 he signed with the Toronto Argonauts. He would go on to wear Double Blue for the rest of his career. He retired in 2013 having played 14 CFL seasons.
Johnson contributed both on offence and special teams throughout his career. He averaged nearly 17 regular season games played per year, and made playoff appearances nine times.
His regular season career numbers included 402 touches for 2,872 combined yards, 21 touchdowns and 113 special teams tackles.
His 234 career games included 198 with the Argos. He stands fifth all-time on the Argos’ all-time appearance list.
The 6’3″ 235 lb fullback out of East Illinois played all 14 of his CFL seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders between 1997 & 2010.
He was drafted in the second round and 13th overall in the 1997 CFL Draft & made his debut in the second week of the 1997 season and dressed for 17 games.
Szarka ran for 1,703 yards in his career on 423 attempts, scoring 33 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 98 passes for 1,308 yards and 5 receiving touchdowns.
Szarka, known as ‘The Canuck Truck’ was Saskatchewan’s Most Outstanding Canadian in 2002 & 2003 and the West Divisions’ top Canadian in 2003.
As well as his regular season appearances Szarka appeared in 15 playoff games and 4 Grey Cup games with the green and white. He took home a winners ring in 2007.
On June 1, 2011, Szarka was released by the Roughriders. He announced his retirement the next day.
Szarka was inducted into the Riders’ Plaza of Honour in 2014.
George Reed is Roughriders’ royalty. It’s as simple as that. The former fullback is a legend in the province. His 80th birthday and living legend status was remarked on by the CFL recently.
The 6′ 0″ fullback out of Washington State played his entire 15 year career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders from 1963 to 1975.
He was the league leading rusher for 5 straight seasons from 1965-1969. For good measure he led the way again in 1974.
Reed rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 11 of his 13 seasons for a career total 16,116 yards on 3,243 carries.
During his time with the Roughriders Reed was selected All Western Running Back 1965-1969 & 1971 -1975. He was chosen All-Canadian 1965-1969 & 1971-1974.
He appeared in 4 grey Cups in 1966, ’67, ’69 & ’72. Reed took home a winners ring in 1966. A game for which he was voted MVP.
When Reed retired in 1975, he was the all-time leading rusher in CFL. Since then, only the great Mike Pringle has surpassed Reed for most yards rushing.
Reed was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall Of Fame in 1979.
McCarty a 5′ 10″ 215 lb fullback out of Western Washington was the Esks fourth round (27th overall) pick in the 2007 CFL Draft.
Although he only had 6 carries during his rookie season he did suit up for the full 18 games.
In an ongoing 13 year career spent entirely with Edmonton he had, up to his 199th game 334 career carries for 1,607 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also had 262 catches for 2005 yards and 12 touchdowns.
McCarty was the Eskimos Most Outstanding Canadian in 2010.
A Grey Cup ring was picked up in 2015. Because of injuries that was a frustrating year personally. But he did play in the Western Final and championship game on special teams. The latter including a 3 yard scamper on a fake punt.
Over the past three years he has started every game. McCarty has made a career out of availability & adaptability as he continues to appear on offense and on special teams.
Our durable quartet make for remarkable reading. Their veteran talent accounted for over 50 years of league experience.
Because of that you might expect more championships on their CV’s. In a way though their 5 championships highlight just how hard it is to take home a Grey Cup.
Banner Image: Calvin McCarty. Image from cfl.ca