Sept. 30, 2009
Ray Nettles, a former Tennessee All-SEC linebacker in 1971, who went on to stardom in the Canadian Football League and later inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame, died Tuesday afternoon at a Southside Hospice after a prolonged battle with liver and lung cancer. He was 60.
"Ray is in heaven on his mother's birthday," Nettles' wife, Bonnie, said. "I praise God for his life and the time I had with him. It was a gift to be with the true love of my life."
Nettles, an All-Southeastern Conference linebacker at Tennessee in 1971, played nine seasons with five different CFL teams. He played over half of his pro career (1972-76) with the British Columbia Lions in Vancouver, where he won the Schenley Award as the league's top lineman/linebacker and was a three-time CFL all-star. He went on to become the defensive MVP with both the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, then played his last two CFL seasons with the Ottawa Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders.
Ranked No. 51 on the Florida Times-Union list of the 100 greatest athletes of the 20th century, Nettles was an impact player on Tennessee teams that went 21-3 in his two seasons (1970-71) as a starting linebacker. At Englewood, he was named to the All-State third team in 1967 and honored as defensive player of the year in Duval County.
In 2005, Nettles became the first football player from Florida to make the CFL Hall of Fame.
He was later joined in 2008 by former Toronto Argonauts player/coach and Dunedin native Michael Clemons.
Nettles was drafted in 1972 by the Miami Dolphins in the sixth round, but he turned down a $5,000 bonus to join the CFL because it offered double the money, and he didn't want to be a likely backup to Nick Buoniconti on the Dolphins' eventual two-time Super Bowl-winning team.
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