“On the Surge to a Grey Cup.” But what do we mean by that? The great and the good? Players who have made it to the Hall of Fame, just like the Class of 2021? Well, no. This is a little more niche than that.
It is the 30th anniversary of the NFL launching the World League of American Football this year. And in honour of that we already took a look at players from the London Monarchs who transitioned into the CFL. Particularly those that had a World Bowl ring and doubled up with a Grey Cup ring too.
It is hard to keep track of these things sometimes. We looked at players with Grey Cup and Super Bowl wins in their career. But it is harder to track who won a pre Super Bowl era NFL title and Grey Cup. Just as it is hard to track players who won a World Bowl in WLAF or NFLEurope, and were on a Grey Cup winning squad.
The Crossover Players
To narrow things down, rather than looking for every player that won a World Bowl and played for a Grey Cup winner, as noted above, I looked at the first WLAF champions in isolation. So now I thought we could extend that and go one year further. After all, the WLAF only played from 1991-1992 in its original format before morphing into the NFL Europe we would come to know and love.
So did any of those 1992 Sacramento Surge players go on to pick up a Grey Cup ring alongside their World Bowl win? The first thing to note was that of that 43 man squad a few did indeed have CFL experience. There were a few who never made it onto a Grey Cup Squad however.
Surging into the CFL
So who were the few who made it from World Bowl Champion with the 1992 Sacramento Surge to appearing, however briefly, on a Grey Cup winning squad in the CFL? Of the 43 man squad, only 3 achieved this; Eddie Brown, Mike Pringle, and Lee Saltz. Let’s take a closer look.
But first, a good few players did go on to have CFL experience. Not least because Sacramento morphed into the Sacramento Gold Miners after the WLAF paused following its’ second season. Meaning they became the first US expansion team in CFL history. Of the defunct CFL teams from that era they are fondly remembered.
Surge Players with CFL experience but no Grey Cup ring
There were plenty of players who moved over from the WLAF to the CFL. And mixed in among the non Grey Cup winning players are some who really made a mark.
QB David Archer who had led the Sacramento Surge to the World Bowl title remained at the helm in the CFL. He spent a total of five seasons in the league. In 1993 he had one of the few 6,000 yards passing seasons in CFL history. Going 403 of 701 for 6,023 yards and 35 TD’s. Limited to only 12 games in 1994 for Sacramento due to injuries, Archer’s numbers dropped, but he still threw for 3,340 yards. By the end of a five year career with Sacramento, San Antonio, Ottawa and Edmonton he had completed 1,388 of 2,434 passes (57%) for 20,671 yards with 120 touchdown passes.
RB Tony Burse transitioned from his time with the Surge to play for the Gold Miners and San Antonio, as well as suiting up for Edmonton and Toronto in the CFL. Over a total of 7 CFL seasons he had 344 carries for 1,433 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also had 114 catches for 1,138 yards and 2 touchdowns.
WR Carl Parker sandwiched his two year stint with the surge in the WLAF between playing for Hamilton in 1990 and the Gold Miners in 1993. In the CFL he made 51 catches for 739 yards and 6 touchdowns.
DB Stefon Adams would play 3 games for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1995. He would make 10 tackles (8 on Defence and 2 on special teams) as well as returning 1 punt for 9 yards.
LB George Bethune was on the roster of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1993 appearing in one game. He found his way ‘home’ to Sacramento in 1994 & suited up for 33 games between them and San Antonio from 1994-5, starting in 14 games. During his time in the CFL he made 51 tackles (48 on Defence and 3 on Special Teams).
LB Corian Freeman started all 10 games for the 1992 Surge. In 1993 he played 5 games for the Gold Miners and 10 games for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Returned to the Gold Miners in 1994. In the CFL he had 3 interceptions (one with Winnipeg which was a 96 yard pick six). 43 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries, (one returned 39 yards for a touchdown), and 7 sacks. A 2 year CFL career saw him appear in 25 games and start 10.
DB Tom Gerhart bounced between the WLAF, NFL and CFL. Having played for the Surge in 1991 & 1992, he suited up for the Gold Miners, Texans, Ti-Cats and Esks in the CFL between 1994 & 1998. Recorded 187 tackles, 5 fumble recoveries, 1 sack and 4 interceptions.
DT Vance Hammond played for the Surge in 1992, the Gold Miners 1993-4 and the Memphis Mad Dogs in 1995. Made 40 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 4 sacks and 1 interception.
DB Derrick Kelson played from 1992 to 1993 during his career with the Surge and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. With Hamilton he appeared in one game in 1992 and 7 in 1993. Recorded 24 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 interception.
LB Peter Najarian had been on the squad of the 1988 Toronto Argonauts appearing in 1 game before he played for the Surge in 1992.
LB/DE/FB Basil Proctor had his biggest impact in an Arena League career. But before that he suited up for 5 games for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1991 then followed the Surge into the CFL as a Gold Miner in 1993. In the CFL he had 13 tackles and 6 sacks.
DB Junior Robinson Junior Robinson played from 1990 to 1995 during his career with the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, Sacramento Gold Miners, Memphis Mad Dogs and Sacramento Surge. Whilst in the CFL he had 64 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 4 interceptions.
The Single Franchise Men
The San Antonio Texans played one season in 1995. But they were an extension of the Sacramento Gold Miners franchise. Who of course, were born out of the Sacramento Surge in the WLAF. So this is a list of the players who only appeared for one iteration or another of that team when they appeared in the WLAF or CFL.
They may not have won a Grey Cup ring but they were a consistent presence at least on their team(s).
OG John Buddenburg was with the Surge for both of their WLAF seasons starting 20 out of 20 games. He was named an All-WLAF player in 1992. In the CFL he played for the Gold Miners in 1994 playing 18 games (4 as a starter), and appeared 17 times for the San Antonio Texans in 1994.
OT Ernie Rogers played and started 10 games with the Surge in 1992. When they moved into the CFL he went with them and played in 2 games in the CFL in 1993. He briefly appeared in the WLAF again. This time on the roster of the 1995 Scottish Claymores but he did not play in any games for them as he had for both iterations of Sacramento.
WR Mark Stock played with the Surge in 1992 and resurfaced with the San Antonio Texans in 1995. That year he had 60 catches for 949 yards and 6 touchdowns. With some NFL stops along the way Stock had a career 88 grabs for 1,369 yards an 7 touchdowns. Highlighting what a high point his one CFL year with the Texans was.
LB Randy Thornton was on the Surge squad in 1992 and travelled north with the Gold Miners in 1993. That year he was moved to DE and played in 7 games making 4 tackles and recording 1 sack. He would later carve out an 8 year wrestling career in WCW under the ring name ‘Swoll’.
DE David Westbrooks played from 1992 to 1993 during his career with the Sacramento Surge and Sacramento Gold Miners. Played 10 games for the Surge and 9 for the Gold Miners. In the CFL he made 3 tackles.
A Sacramento Surge Hall of Famer – but not for football
NT-DT Bill Goldberg played with the Surge in 1992 as an Atlanta Falcons developmental player. He would return to the Falcons roster in 1993 & 1994. With the Surge he played 10 games but was not a starter. He recorded 3 sacks in the WLAF.
Injury ended his NFL career which ended with him being the first player ever cut by the Carolina Panthers. But he did alright for himself as a professional wrestler, and in 2018 was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
On the Surge to a Grey Cup ring
So who did add a Grey Cup ring to their World Bowl win? There were three players that did this. One who won his ring before playing in the World League. One who has one of the great plays in Grey Cup history, and one who is nothing short of a CFL legend and made his way to the Hall of Fame.
So let’s take a look at how Eddie Brown, Mike Pringle, and Lee Saltz made their way to Grey Cup victories.
‘Downtown’ Eddie Brown was in the CFL before his time with the Surge in the WLAF. Eventually he would play on CFL teams in 7 cities – Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Memphis, BC & Montreal. The Toronto Argos signed Brown in August of 1993, and he completed the season with Toronto, making 31 catches in 10 games. Brown was then traded to the Edmonton Eskimos in a massive multi-player deal that sent QB Tracy Ham to Toronto.
Eddie Brown had his best years with Edmonton. Winning his Grey Cup ring in 1993 as the Esks went from 12-6 onto a 3-0 playoff run. Brown contibuted 67 catches for 1,378 yards and 15 touchdowns that season. He also had one of the most memorable plays in Grey Cup history making a shoestring 64 yard touchdown catch in a losing cause against the Toronto Argonauts in one of the classic Grey Cups in 1996.
In total he caught 532 passes for 8,663 yards and 63 touchdowns in 160 career CFL games.
As we have seen some of the players from the Surge went on to have pretty good CFL careers. Eddie Brown and David Archer made memorable contributions during their time in the league. But nobody had the impact that Mike Pringle did!
Achieving the 2000 yard mark for a pro running back is a rarity. In fact there have only been 10 2,000 yard rushing seasons (across 3 leagues) in pro football history. In the CFL it is an even rarer feat. Achieved once and only once by Pringle with the Montreal Alouettes in 1998. That year he made 2,065 yards on the ground. He also tied the CFL record with 2,414 yards from scrimmage.
The player who gets nearest to the 2,000 yard mark in the CFL? Pringle himself. He rushed ro 1,972 yards in 1994 when he was with the Baltimore Stallions. Pringle was a division All-Star nine times and was twice named the Outstanding Player in the CFL (1995 and 1998). Pringle’s 16,425 career yards are still the CFL record. Not surprisingly he is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Grey Cup rings were collected in 1995 (with Baltimore). As well as 2002 and 2003 (with Montreal).
Well, I couldn’t find a picture of Saltz in his CFL days – so here he is in a Patriots uniform!
Saltz joined the Blue Bombers in 1988. He dressed for 17 games over 2 seasons for them, making 1 start. After his time in Sacramento he would appear for Hamilton in 1993.
He picked up a Grey Cup ring in 1988, before he joined the Sacramento Surge in the WLAF. In 2 seasons in Winnipeg he completed 43 passes for 555 yards and 3 touchdowns. He appeared in the Eastern Division final on the way to the Grey Cup too.
Perhaps best noted however for being the first player to wear a helmet camera on the playing field. This was on the 1st of April 1991 when he played with the San Antonio Riders in the WLAF before making his way to the Surge.
Banner image from ebay.