Mike Pringle – a CFL great
I love the history of pro football, and I love the CFL. Which is why in the past on the 99 Yards website CFL pages we have looked at some of the greats of the game. So far, we have looked back at a variety of special teams players, defensive superstars and quarterbacks. (See end of article).
But what about the workhorses? The men ploughing an offensive furrow on the ground? I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the great CFL names in that area of the game. After all, UK based NFL fans with a love of the history of the game can tell you plenty about men like Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Marion Motley, Marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith and so many more.
Well I am here to tell UK based gridiron fans that the 3 down game has a pantheon of its own. That started out with the Saskatchewan Rouhgriders legend George Reed. Then moved on to another past superstar, the Edmonton Elks (then Eskimos) star Johnny Bright. Now it is time to shine the spotlight on the man who holds the record for most rushing yards in league history, Mike Pringle.
Before the glory
Mike Pringle would have a glorious career in the CFL. But before that he struggled to get traction in his career. He started out as sixth round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. It didn’t pan out. Look up Mike Pringle’s career stats on NFL.com and there isn’t much there. Just 3 games played with the Atlanta Falcons in 1990 resulting in 2 carries for 9 yards and 1 return for 14 yards.
After being released by the Falcons in 1991 he joined the Sacramento Surge of the WLAF. Whilst with the Surge in 1992 he would win a World Bowl title. A training camp with the LA Raiders didn’t result in anything. But Pringle did make his first step into the CFL.
Having signed for Edmonton however he was used sparingly. Appearing in only 3 games, making a total of 22 carries, 4 receptions, and six kick returns.
The US Expansion Plays a role
The arrival of the short lived US expansion era in the CFL provided Mike Pringle with another opportunity. One he would go on to take with both hands.
Pringle signed as a free agent with the expansion Sacramento Gold Miners for the 1993 season. With the Gold Miners, Pringle appeared in all 18 games and was used more as a receiver out of the backfield than a runner. He carried the ball only 60 times for 368 yards, but caught the ball 56 times for 523 yards.
As part of a trade the next stop for Mike Pringle was with the Baltimore Stallions. In 1994, his third season in the CFL, and first in Baltimore, Pringle saw his career take off in a big way.
That season he ran for 1,972 yards with an impressive 6.4 yards per carry average. He followed that up in 1995 by rushing for 1,791 yards. In his two seasons in Stallions colours he had 617 carries for 3,763 yards, (6 yards per carry), and 26 touchdowns.
He played no small part in the Stallions being the first American CFL franchise to make it to the Grey Cup. A game they lost to the B.C. Lions, 26-23, on a last-second field goal. As well as, in 1995, the first, and still only non-Canadian franchise to win the Grey Cup. This time with an impressive display against the Calgary Stampeders, winning 37-20.
The 1995 Stallions went 18-3 between regular season and playoffs. A run highlighted by a 16-game winning streak to see out the season.
Moving to Montreal
A few months later, the CFL folded up the American expansion experiment. The Baltimore Ravens played their first NFL season in 1996. Instead of competing with the NFL, the Baltimore franchise moved to Montreal. To this day, the Montreal Alouettes don’t recognize the Stallions in their official team history.
But for players like Mike Pringle it surely felt like the same Franchise in a different city. The Alouettes were immediately successful. Pringle was with the organization from 1996-2002. During that time they went 83-42-1 and appeared in the playoffs every season.
Pringle missed some playing time due to injury in 1996 and 2002. But from 1997-2001 he recorded five straight 1,000 yard seasons. During this run he recorded 8,597 of his career 9,649 yards as an Alouette. Undoubtedly though, one season stood out most of all.
The 2,000 yard season
Mike Pringle is the only RB in CFL history to record a 2,000 yard season. The 2,000 Yard club is pretty exclusive as it is. But for Pringle, being the only one in CFL history, is even more exclusive.
Pringle had his memorable season in 1998 whilst with the Montreal Alouettes. It was his seventh season in the league, and third in Als colours. (Although arguably fifth with the same franchise as Montreal were born out of a disbanded Baltimore team).
In an 18 game CFL regular season, Pringle had 347 carries, for 2,064 yards, at 5.9 yards per carry, with 9 Touchdowns, averaging 114.66 yards per game. He also added 26 catches for 349 yards. This gave him 2,414 yards from scrimmage on the season. A figure which is still the CFL single season record. It has only been matched once. By Pringle himself in 1994.
Back where it began
Perhaps the Montreal Alouettes thought Mike Pringle was done. Prior to the 2003 season he was released by the team. Edmonton, where he had started his CFL journey, snapped him up.
He would reward them by making 36 appearances from 2003-2004, and rushing for a 1,000 yards, and making 40+ catches during both seasons.
Mike Pringle retired after the 2004 season as the all-time leading CFL rusher. His career numbers showed 2,962 carries for 16,425 yards with 137 touchdowns. He also holds the record for the most rushing yards in a single season thanks to his 2,065 yards in 1998. Pringle also sits in second (1,972 yards in 1994) & fifth (1,791 yards in 1995) on that list. His nine 1,000+ yards seasons are second only to George Reed.
Mike Pringle – the Awards
It would be a surprise after such a career if Mike Pringle hadn’t picked up a few awards along the way. Which of course he did.
Pringle led the CFL in rushing six times over his career and accordingly was voted Division or League All-Star on multiple occasions.
He was a Divisional All-Star eight times. Once in the West (2003) and seven times in the East/South (1994 & 1996-2001).
Pringle was a league All-Star seven times, – 1994-1995, 1997-2000, and 2003.
On June the 22nd, 2005, Pringle signed a contract with Montreal, so that the team’s all-time leading rusher could retire as an Alouette. They would retire his number 27 jersey.
He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Beyond the running backs
Special teams players we have looked at have included kickers Paul Osbaldiston, Lui Passaglia, Bob Cameron and Dave Cutler. As well as legendary returners Michael “Pinball” Clemons and Henry ‘Gizmo’ Williams.
On the quarterbacking front we have looked at the likes of Damon Allen, Ron Lancaster, Tom Wilkinson, Tracy Ham, Tom Clements, Dieter Brock and Sam Etcheverry.
Not to mention defensive superstars such as Wayne Harris, Willie Pless, Angelo Mosca, Dickie Harris, Norm Fieldgate, Jim Corrigall, and Bill Baker.
Players make the game and great players make up part of the rich fabric of the history fo the game. So if you want to know more why not pick some out and take a look?
Banner Image: Mike Pringle with the Montreal Alouettes. he carried the load for several different teams during a legendary CFL career.