“There are three things that can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad.” There is some dispute as to who is responsible for this quote, https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Woody_Hayes , but more than anything it reflects just how much the nature of american football has changed. For example in the NFL the last time the reception leader had less than 100 receptions in a single season was OJ McDuffie of the Dolphins in 1998. Even that was an outlier, being the only time since 1989 that the reception leader has not been a centurion. Long gone are the days of three yards and a cloud of dust!
You would expect the CFL to become much more wide open as these trends developed too. After all in the 3 down game, gaining yardage quickly can be even more critical. So it has proved. In 2017 five players passed the 100 catch mark in the CFL, 4 of them receivers, but were led by running back Andrew Harris of Winnipeg with 105.
From 2016-17 the CFL had 10 players reach 100+ receptions, as many as had done so from 2001-15 in total. In the CFL it increasingly seems, the run is gradually giving way to short passes as the main method of progressing down the field.
To put this into some kind of historical context, Lionel Taylor was the first professional football receiver ever to make 100 catches in a single season, accomplishing the feat in only 14 games (1961), playing for the Denver Broncos in the AFL. It wasn’t until 1984 that Art Monk caught a then-NFL record 106 receptions for 1,372 yards and 7 touchdowns playing for Washington that this mark was surpassed.
The first CFL reception centurion was Eugene Goodlow playing for the the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1981. He had played two years of college football at Kansas State, catching 26 passes for 613 yards in 1978 with the Wildcats, but only having three receptions for 54 yards in 1979, as injuries hurt his production.
Throughout the season, Brock’s favourite receiver had been Goodlow. He had an incredible last game of the season to reach the 100 mark. In that game Goodlow caught 15 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns helping him break George McGowan’s record of 98 catches set in 1975 with Edmonton. Goodlow would not reach those heights again in the CFL, but he will always be remembered as the first to scale the 100 catch ladder.
Suffering from a neck injury, Goodlow only played 6 games in 1982, but still had 30 catches and 515 yards. Goodlow then jumped to the NFL and played with New Orleans from 1983 to 1986. The Saints, who took note of Goodlow’s 1981 CFL season, took him in the third round of the 1982 NFL Draft, and held his rights when he became eligible for the NFL.
The Saints saw him fit into their offense right away, catching 41 passes for 487 yards and two touchdowns in their 8-8 season in 1983. Those 41 receptions tied him for second on the team, with tight end Hoby Brenner, eight fewer than Jeff Groth, who led the team with 49 that year. 1983 would turn out to be the best season Goodlow would have in the NFL as he was plagued by injuries in subsequent seasons — knee, hamstring, ankle, broken vertebrae — that kept him from delivering on his full potential. He missed six games in 1984, four in 1985, and when he was on the field he usually wasn’t 100 percent healthy. He went on to record 22 catches in 1984, followed by 32 in 1985, and 20 in 1986 after which his career with the Saints ended.
Goodlow joined the San Diego Chargers in 1987, but suffered injuries in training camp that Autumn and again in 1988 that kept him sidelined. He made a brief comeback with the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders in 1989, appearing in just 2 games.
Although his later career was never again as illustrious or productive as that 1981 season, we shouldn’t forget Eugene Goodlow – the CFL’s first reception centurion.
Image from USA Today