Pinball joined the National Football League in 1987, and the Toronto Argonauts (and the CFL) in 1989. He was nicknamed “Pinball” because of his running style: his diminutive size and extraordinary balance allowed him to “bounce” between defensive players, drawing comparisons to a pinball machine. In 1990, he was honoured with the CFL’s “most outstanding player” award, after setting the single-season record for all-purpose yards. He played his last game as an Argonaut in 2000, before becoming head coach of the team.
In 2007, Pinball stepped down as head coach to become the Chief Executive Officer; in 2009, he was appointed to Vice-Chair of the team. That same year, he founded the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation, which is dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth. He is also currently working with Marc and Craig Kielburger, founders of Free the Children, in an initiative to build schools and clean water systems in Africa.