December 6, 2021

The Top 75: The Top 5

It’s finally time for the Top 5! While none of the other 70 names that we announced were ranked, these five have been specifically chosen as the Top 5 Stampeders of All-Time! But first, let’s look at how the list was made:

The list was created by a consensus ranking of players by long-time equipment manager George Hopkins, radio play-by-play voice Mark Stephen, Stampeders historian Daryl Slade, and Wall-of-Famer Stan Schwartz. Each member was asked to rank their Top-5 players of All-Time and then provide a list of the remaining 70. With differences among the lists, more than 100 players received acknowledgement during this process. Players were added to the list  by number of votes. Forty-three players received four votes, 20 players had three votes, and 18 players had two votes, meaning that not all of the two-vote players were able to make the list. To fairly assign those final spots on the list, those two-vote players were ranked first by seasons played, followed by Grey Cups won, and finally by All-CFL team appearances.

Throughout the season, we will be unveiling the list 10 players at a time in no specific order, finishing with the Top-5 Stampeders players of All-Time. Stay tuned to see if your favourite players made the list!

Want to see the others who made the Top 75?
Check out The First 10
Check out The Second 10
Check out The Third 10
Check out The Fourth 10
Check out The Fifth 10
Check out The Sixth 10
Check out The Seventh 10

1. WAYNE HARRIS, LB, 1961-1972

Height: 6 feet
Weight: 195 lb.
College: Arkansas
Awards/Recognition: High School All-American, Most Oustanding Player in the Southwest Conference (1960), Outstanding Lineman Award (1965, 1966, 1970, 1971), All-West Conference (1961-1963, 1965, 1966, 1968-1971), All-Canadian (1962, 1964-1968, 1970, 1971), Grey Cup MOP (1971), Grey Cup Champion, Canadian Football Hall of Fame, College Football Hall of Fame, Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, Stampeders Wall of Fame

When you think of the Stampeders, often some big name quarterbacks come to mind, but perhaps no one more represents the Red & White than Wayne ‘Thumper’ Harris.

The native of Hampton, Ark., played his high school and collegiate football in state before taking his talents elsewhere for his professional career. Drafted by the Boston Patriots of the American Football League, Harris instead opted to head north for an opportunity with the Stampeders. The quick, yet powerful, middle linebacker would go on to play his entire 12-year career with Calgary and would become one of the most dominating defensive players in CFL history.

An aggressive attacker, Harris would routinely dish out some incredible hits on his opponents. That hard-nosed tackling would result in numerous forced fumbles and 23 fumble recoveries over the course of his career. Speaking of turnovers, Harris would add 28 interceptions from his linebacker position. Because of the era of football in which Harris played, statistics such as quarterback sacks and tackles were not recorded, although it’s well understood that he would be near the tops of those categories amongst the Stampeders all-time ranks.
Despite being on the small side for players at his position, Harris would break the mould and become a generational linebacker. With his combination of speed, aggressiveness, and intelligence, he would confound defences and do things that other players at his position could not. A true sideline-to-sideline player with the ability to knock your block off, Harris was a special player and The Greatest Stampeder of All Time.

2. DOUG FLUTIE, QB, 1992-1995

Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 180 lb.
College: Boston College
Awards/Recognition: Heisman Trophy (1984), Maxwell Award (1984), Walter Camp Award (1984), Davey O’Brien Award (1984), UPI Player of the Year (1984), Sporting News Player of the Year (1984), All-America (1984), Grey Cup champion (1992, 1996, 1997), Grey Cup MOP (1992, 1996, 1997), CFL Most Outsanding Player (1991-1994, 1996, 1997), CFL All-Star (1991-1994, 1996, 1997), NFL Pro Bowl (1998), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1998), College Football Hall of Fame, Canadian Football Hall of Fame

Maybe the most dynamic quarterback to ever lace ’em up in the CFL, Flutie earned his place in the Top 5 of this list with just four years at the helm for the Red & White.

After a pair of seasons with the BC Lions and coming off of a CFL Most Outstanding Player award, Flutie and the Stampeders made a major splash in free agency when they agreed on a deal to bring the quarterback east of the Rockies.

Flutie would continue his dominance of the CFL over the next three years, winning back-to-back-to-back Most Outstanding Player Awards with the Stampeders and helping lead the team to a Grey Cup victory in 1992. In the 1994 season, Flutie threw 48 touchdowns, which still stands as the most passing touchdowns in a single CFL season. He also holds the record for most yards thrown in a single-season with 6,619 yards in 1991.

Flutie would go on to play two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts in 1996 and 1997, where he would win back-to-back Grey Cups.
Over his eight years in the league, Flutie suited up in 135 games and would compile 41,355 passing yards (9th all-time), 270 passing touchdowns, 4,660 rushing yards, and 10 scores on the ground. Those statistics earned him many accolades, including CFL All-Star nods in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1997. In each of those seasons, he was also recognized as the league’s Most Outstanding Player. He missed out on the award in his rookie season and in 1995, when he was limited to just 12 games due to injury.
One of the greatest to ever play in the CFL, it’s hard not to imagine the things he may have accomplished had he not left in 1998 to play in the NFL for the next eight seasons.

3. JOHN HELTON, DT, 1969-1978

Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 250 lb.
College: Arizona State
Awards/Recognition: CFL West All-Star (1969-1979, 1981, 1982), CFL All-Star (1971-1976, 1978, 1979, 1982), Tom Pate Memorial Award (1979), CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player (1974), CFL Most Outstanding Lineman (1972), Grey Cup Champion (1971), Canadian Football Hall of Fame (1986), Alberta Sports Hall of Fame (1993)

A truly dominating force in the middle of the Stampeders defence, it’s a shame that Helton’s era of CFL football did not track quarterback sacks. He was undoubtedly one of the best-ever defensive tackles to play in this league, but there are so few stats and video records to preserve his memory.

Helton played 10 seasons with the Stampeders before finishing his career with four seasons in Winnipeg. In each of his 10 campaigns with the Red & White, Helton was recognized as a CFL West All-Star. Over his 14 years in the CFL, Helton played in 217 games, missing just seven outings over that stretch.

While we may never know his true tackle or sack totals, we will always remember Helton for his role in helping the Stampeders claim the 1971 Grey Cup over the Toronto Argonauts. He was also memorialized in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1986 and in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.

Nicknamed ‘Biggie’, Helton certainly was that, dominating grown men on the football field and doing the same in Stu Hart’s legendary Stampede Wrestling.


Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 199 lb.
College: Eastern Washington
Awards/Recognition: Walter Payton Award (2011), Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year (2011), FCS Champion (2010), CFL West All-Star (2015, 2016, 2018), CFL All-Star (2016, 2018), CFL Most Outstanding Player (2016, 2018), Grey Cup Champion (2014, 2018)

Mitchell – otherwise known as ‘The Gunslinger’ – signed on with the Red & White in 2012 but didn’t really get any significant action until the 2013 season. In 2014, he would take the reigns as the team’s starting quarterback, beginning his current seven-year run as the man under centre.

In his first full season, Mitchell led the Stampeders to a 15-3 record, throwing for 3,389 yards and 22 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. Calgary would go on to win the Grey Cup, beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 20-16 at BC Place and the Stamps signal caller would be named the Grey Cup’s Most Outstanding Player.

Mitchell would continue to produce year-after-year for the Stampeders and he would lead the Red & White to three consecutive Grey Cup appearances from 2016-2018. While the team would fall in 2016 and 2017, Mitchell would get the job done in 2018, winning his second Grey Cup Championship.

In his nine seasons with the Stampeders, Mitchell has suited up for 147 games, throwing for 30,531 yards and 179 touchdowns. He’s added another 746 yards on the ground, with 14 touchdowns. He also set multiple records in his tenure, including being the fastest starting quarterback to win 60 games (72 starts), having the best starting record for a first-time quarterback (12-1), and having the most consecutive wins by a starting quarterback (14).

The record, though, that is most impressive is his career winning percentage of 78.7%, which is the best-ever percentage in CFL history, surpassing Doug Flutie (74.6%), Dave Dickenson (71.7%), and Warren Moon (70.3%).

5. ALLEN PITTS, WR, 1990-2000

Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 200 lb.
College: California State, Fullerton
Awards/Recognition: CFL West All-Star (1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999), CFL All-Star (1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999), Grey Cup Champion (1992, 1998), President’s Ring (1994, 1999), Canadian Football Hall of Fame (2006), Retired jersey number 18

Perhaps the most dominant receiver of his era, Pitts was a consistent deep threat in the Calgary offence and he demonstrated strong hands, rarely dropping a ball.

In 11 seasons with the Red & White, Pitts excelled from start to finish. In 1990, he burst onto the scene with 65 receptions and 1,172 yards with six touchdowns. In all but two seasons he would reach the 1,000 yard mark, even eclipsing the 2,000 yard plateau in 1994.
All told, Pitts would finish his career in 2000 with 966 receptions for 14,891 yards (15.4 yards per reception) and 117 touchdowns. At that time, he was the CFL’s all-time receiving leader, but that title would later be taken by Milt Stegall.

To this day, the incredible wideout still holds many Stampeder records, including most receptions, most receptions in a single season, most touchdowns, most touchdowns in a single season, most career receiving yards, most receiving yards in a single season, most career 100-yard games, and most 100-yard games in a single season. He’s without a doubt the greatest receiver to ever don the Red & White.

Pitts played in five Grey Cup games during his career and was instrumental in winning the 1992 and 1998 Grey Cups.

Twice during his tenure with Calgary, Pitts was named the team’s nominee for Most Outstanding Player. However, in 1991 he would lose out to Doug Flutie, who was with the BC Lions and in 1999 he would be the runner-up to Danny McManus of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

To cap off a phenomenal career, Pitts was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2006. The year prior, he was enshrined on the Stampeders Wall of Fame and the team retired his jersey No. 18.