Not every superstar in the NFL met instant success upon entering the league. Former players like Kurt Warner had to make a stint in the Arena Football League before he had an opportunity to really show what he could do in the NFL. Another notable name is former wide receiver Joe Horn, who has since become a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame after making a name for himself in the Canadian Football League.
The Miami Dolphins have their own former CFL representative, and that's Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake, who is well aware that the journey to the NFL is not an easy one.
The 33-year old Wake had to take a long and hard journey to get where he is today. He went undrafted in 2005 after playing linebacker for Penn State, and had a very brief stint with the New York Giants. Wake was then released by the Giants and ended up spending the 2005 and 2006 seasons out of football. In 2007, he latched on with the CFL team, the British Columbia Lions, where he made the position switch to defensive end.
It was then that Wake really started making waves in the world of football. He won the CFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2007 and 2008 as a member of the British Columbia Lions, which led to then Vice President of Football Operations Bill Parcells and his chosen GM Jeff Ireland to sign him onto the Miami Dolphins in 2009.
Since becoming a member of the Dolphins, Wake has been named an All-Pro three times and has been selected to four Pro Bowls. Wake is essentially the perfect example of a rags to riches story, and none of that would have happened if he hadn't had that stint in Canada.
“I think it’s a good move for anybody if you get an opportunity. I loved it in my time there,” Wake said this offseason. “It was an opportunity to get out there and play. If you have the desire to get back [to the NFL], teams kind of grab those guys. To get out there and play the game just for the love of the game was a great opportunity for me."
The star defensive end learned a lot from his time in the CFL, and he explained that despite the different rules the league uses, it didn't really affect how he played when he made the transition to the NFL.
“There are so many things in football that are just football. I don’t care if it’s CFL, NFL, XFL, Arena, whatever,” Wake said. “Rushing the passer is rushing the passer. Catching the ball is catching the ball. Tackling is tackling, no matter what the auxiliary rules are. If you can beat somebody and manhandle a guard, you can do that anywhere. So just getting up there and being able to show what you can do and put your resume on field, the rest will take care of itself.”
And the rest did take care of itself. Cameron Wake went from a nobody who couldn't make the Giants roster to one of the greatest pass-rushers in the National Football League, and it's something that Wake will cherish and take with him for the rest of his life.
“My path, I wouldn’t change it for the world." Wake said. "You have first-round picks and all that. But my path is my path and that made me what I am today.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater