Ray Nettles

Last updated

Ray Nettles
No. 51
Born:(1949-08-01)August 1, 1949
Jacksonville, Florida
Died:September 29, 2009(2009-09-29) (aged 60)
Jacksonville, Florida
Career information
CFL status International
Position(s) LB
Height6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Weight220 lb (100 kg)
College Tennessee
NFL draft 1972 / Round: 6 / Pick: 155
Drafted by Miami Dolphins
Career history
As player
19721976 BC Lions
1977 Toronto Argonauts
1978 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
1979 Ottawa Rough Riders
1980 Calgary Stampeders
Career highlights and awards
CFL All-Star 1972, 1973, 1978 [1]
CFL East All-Star 1978
CFL West All-Star 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977
Awards1972 Rookie of the Year [2]
1973 Most Outstanding Lineman
Career stats

Ray Nettles (August 1, 1949 – September 29, 2009) was a football linebacker at the University of Tennessee who played professional Canadian football from 1972-1980. He was a five-time Canadian Football League All-Star and Hall of Famer.

Linebacker defensive position in American football

A linebacker is a playing position in American football and Canadian football. Linebackers are members of the defensive team, and line up approximately three to five yards behind the line of scrimmage, behind the defensive linemen, and therefore "back up the line". Linebackers generally align themselves before the ball is snapped by standing upright in a "two-point stance".

University of Tennessee Public university in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

The University of Tennessee is a public research university in Knoxville, Tennessee. Founded in 1794, two years before Tennessee became the 16th state, it is the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee system, with ten undergraduate colleges and eleven graduate colleges. It hosts almost 28,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. In its 2019 universities ranking, U.S. News & World Report ranked UT 115th among all national universities and 52nd among public institutions of higher learning. Seven alumni have been selected as Rhodes Scholars. James M. Buchanan, M.S. '41, received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Economics. UT's ties to nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, established under UT President Andrew Holt and continued under the UT–Battelle partnership, allow for considerable research opportunities for faculty and students.

Canadian football Canadian sport in which opposing teams of twelve players attempt to score by advancing a ball by running, passing and kicking

Canadian football is a sport played in Canada in which two teams of 12 players each compete for territorial control of a field of play 110 yards (101 m) long and 65 yards (59 m) wide attempting to advance a pointed oval-shaped ball into the opposing team's scoring area.


Early years

Nettles was born in Jacksonville, Florida and graduated from Englewood High School in 1968. In his senior year, he was Duval County defensive player of the year and third team All-State. [3]

Jacksonville, Florida Largest city in Florida

Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida, the most populous city in the southeastern United States and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968. Consolidation gave Jacksonville its great size and placed most of its metropolitan population within the city limits. As of 2017 Jacksonville's population was estimated to be 892,062. The Jacksonville metropolitan area has a population of 1,523,615 and is the fourth largest in Florida.

Duval County, Florida County in Florida, United States

Duval County is a county in the State of Florida. As of the 2010 census, the population was 864,263, with a 2017 estimate at 937,934, the seventh most populous in Florida. Its county seat is Jacksonville, with which the Duval County government has been consolidated since 1968. Duval County was established in 1822, and is named for William Pope Duval, Governor of Florida Territory from 1822 to 1834.

Nettles accepted a scholarship to the University of Tennessee but spent his first two years as backup to two-time Pro Bowler Jack Reynolds. In the two seasons that Nettles started as linebacker, Tennessee's record was 21-3 and he was named to the All-SEC team in 1971.

Pro Bowl all-star game of the National Football League (NFL)

The Pro Bowl is the all-star game of the National Football League (NFL). From the merger with the rival American Football League (AFL) in 1970 up through 2013 and since 2017, it is officially called the AFC–NFC Pro Bowl, matching the top players in the American Football Conference (AFC) against those in the National Football Conference (NFC). From 2014 through 2016, the NFL experimented with an unconferenced format, where the teams were selected by two honorary team captains, instead of selecting players from each conference. The players were picked in a televised "schoolyard pick" prior to the game.

Southeastern Conference College athletics conference of universities in the southern United States

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is an American college athletic conference whose member institutions are located primarily in the Southern part of the United States. Its fourteen members include the flagship public universities of eleven states, two additional public land grant universities, and one private research university. The conference is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. The SEC participates in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I in sports competitions; for football, it is part of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A.

Professional career

The Miami Dolphins drafted him in 1972, but he chose the CFL because they offered twice as much money and the opportunity to play immediately. At Miami, he would have competed for a starting job against All-Pro linebacker Nick Buoniconti. Nettles was quoted in a 1999 Florida Times-Union article, "It's not like I was afraid to play in the NFL. I could have had success there, but I already waited my turn behind Jack Reynolds at Tennessee, and I didn't want to do that again. I wanted to prove myself right away." [3]

Miami Dolphins National Football League franchise in Miami, Florida

The Miami Dolphins are a professional American football team based in the Miami metropolitan area. The Dolphins compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) East division. The Dolphins play their home games at Hard Rock Stadium in the northern suburb of Miami Gardens, Florida, and are headquartered in Davie, Florida. The Dolphins are Florida's oldest professional sports team. Of the four AFC East teams, they are the only team in the division that was not a charter member of the American Football League (AFL).

All-Pro is an honor bestowed upon professional American football players that designates the best player at each position during a given season. All-Pro players are typically selected by press organizations, who select an "All-Pro team," a list that consists of at least 22 players, one for each offensive and defensive position, plus various special teams players depending on the press organization that compiles the list. All-Pro lists are exclusively limited to the major leagues, usually only the National Football League; in the past, other leagues recognized as major, such as the American Football League of the 1960s or the All-America Football Conference of the 1940s, have been included in All-Pro lists.

Nick Buoniconti American football player

Nicholas Anthony Buoniconti is a former American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL) middle linebacker, who played for the Boston Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Buoniconti was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

Nettles started his pro career for the BC Lions in 1972 and was named to the All-Star team his first year. In his second year, he won the 1973 CFL's Most Outstanding Lineman Award and was again named to the All-Star team. He remained with the Lions through the 1976 season, then played for the Toronto Argonauts in 1977, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1978, the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1979, and the Calgary Stampeders in 1980. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

BC Lions Canadian football team based in Vancouver

The BC Lions are a professional Canadian football team competing in the West Division of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Lions play their home games at BC Place.

The Most Outstanding Lineman Award was an award annually given to the best defensive player or offensive lineman in the Canadian Football League from the year 1955 to 1973. By the 1974 season, the league decided to make two separate awards for both defensive players and offensive linemen.

Toronto Argonauts professional football team based in Toronto, Canada

The Toronto Argonauts are a professional Canadian football team competing in the East Division of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Based in Toronto, Ontario, the team was founded in 1873, and is the oldest existing professional sports team in North America still using its original name, and they are the oldest-surviving team in both the modern-day CFL and East Division. The team's origins date back to a modified version of rugby football that emerged in North America in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The Argonauts played their home games at Rogers Centre from 1989 until 2016 when the team moved to BMO Field, the fifth stadium site to host the team.

Personal life

While playing football, Nettles was known as a tough guy with long hair who partied hard and drove fast motorcycles. [3] His profile on the Canadian Football Hall of Fame website states: "He became known as much for his colourful off field personality as for his on field feistiness." [4] Nettles struggled throughout much of his adult life with alcohol and cocaine additions, which contributed to three divorces and multiple attempts at rehabilitation. He was finally successful in November 2008 after a six-week stay at Willingway Hospital. [3] He explained his attitude in a July 2009 interview:

Willingway Hospital, located in Statesboro, Georgia, is a privately owned hospital which specializes in treating alcoholism and drug addiction. The treatment modality at Willingway Hospital is based on the principles of the twelve-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous. It is referred to by many as "The Betty Ford Center of the South."

In my mind, I wasn't suppose[ sic ] to live past 50, so I didn't take rehabilitation seriously the first few times I tried it. I was always standing on the edge, looking over a cliff, but stepping backwards. A few times, I slipped and saw a couple of the rocks fall and God spared me many times. I just never could figure out why until this past year. [3]

As part of his sobriety, Nettles became a Christian and regained self-respect and dignity, which allowed him to live his final months at peace. [3]


Nettles died at a hospice in Jacksonville, Florida on September 29, 2009, after a long battle with liver and lung cancer. [5] [6] [7]

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1972 BC Lions season

The 1972 BC Lions finished in fifth place in the Western Conference with a 5–11 record and failed to make the playoffs.

1973 BC Lions season

The 1973 BC Lions finished in third place in the Western Conference with a 5–9–2 record. They beat the Calgary Stampeders in the final game of the regular season to make the playoffs. However, the Lions would lose to Saskatchewan in the Wester Semi-Final 33–13.

1975 BC Lions season

The 1975 BC Lions finished in fifth place in the Western Conference with a 6–10 record and failed to make the playoffs.


  1. Our Sports Central, September 29, 2009, "Lions mourn loss of Ray Nettles"
  2. Canadian Press, September 29, 2009, "Canadian Football Hall of Famer Ray Nettles dies at 60 after cancer battle"
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Frenette, Gene: Florida Times-Union, September 30, 2009, "Former Jacksonville football star Ray Nettles dies at 60"
  4. Ray Nettles, Canadian Football Hall of Fame
  5. Frenette, Gene (July 10, 2009). "Ray Nettles seeks redemption while facing a terminal illness". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved September 30, 2009.
  6. Frenette, Gene (September 29, 2009). "'He wasn't afraid of anything': Ex-B.C. Lions star Ray Nettles dies of cancer". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved September 30, 2009.
  7. "CFL mourns the loss of Ray Nettles". Canadian Football League. September 29, 2009. Retrieved September 30, 2009.