July 29, 2016

Pedersen: Roosevelt a key part of rebuild in Riderville

The Canadian Press

REGINA — Apparently you need to win in order for one of your players to be named a CFL Top Performer of the Week.

That was the case coming out of Week 5 for the Saskatchewan Roughriders as wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt was named one of the CFL’s three Top Performers, along with quarterbacks Jeremiah Masoli of Hamilton and Mike Reilly of Edmonton.

Roosevelt led all Rider receivers with 182 yards receiving including an 89-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Gale in the Riders’ 30-29 home victory over Ottawa on Friday.  For Roosevelt – who was targeted 10 times and made eight receptions – it was far sweeter to collect that win than it was to be named Player of the Week.

“I mean it was awesome,” Roosevelt smiled on Tuesday.  “Especially me being here last year and us only getting three wins.  For us to start with a win in our fourth game, to get the ball rolling, I think we got our confidence and are ready to start going.”

» Masoli, Roosevelt, Reilly named Week 5’s Top Performers
» Berg vs. Ferg 
Who will start for the Riders in 2017?
» The Weekly Say: Is Roosevelt a top-five receiver?

Matt Smith/CFL.ca

Naaman Roosevelt hopes to keep the confidence from his team’s win over Ottawa going in Riderville (CFL.ca)

I agree.  I think that last-minute victory over Ottawa last week was a major “bubble burst” for this football club and they likely won’t look back.  They’re not about to go on a 14-game winning streak or anything crazy like that, but now they’re no longer referred to as “a winless” club.  That win over the REDBLACKS has vaulted the Riders out of the West Division basement and into the mix with plenty of games to go.

Roosevelt may have said it best when he mentioned that victory was great for the team’s “confidence”.  They might just be as good as we’ve been told they are.  Or are going to be.

And, don’t look now, but Roosevelt’s 477 yards have him on pace to smash 1,000 yards receiving in just his second season with Canada’s Team.  The 28-year old from Buffalo, NY probably would’ve hit 1,000 yards last year but didn’t get on the roster until Week 9 and he still wound up with 488 yards on a pitiful club.

Now, the Rider Store is selling #82 ROOSEVELT jerseys in all its locations, right beside the big boys of Durant and Bagg.  That should mean that Roosevelt has officially arrived in Riderville.

“I just found out now, but thank you!  That’s awesome!” Roosevelt laughed. “As a kid you see that when you’re buying jerseys and now to have that for yourself, and kids wanting to buy it, that’s humbling.  It definitely feels good to have that.  I just want to keep getting better and better and do anything to help this team out.”

If you were one of the handful of players kept around by Chris Jones after last year’s debacle, that means a lot.  Roosevelt joins a precious few that includes Rob Bagg, Darian Durant, Tyler Crapigna and a handful of offensive linemen and special teamers.

Roosevelt figures to be a key part of the rebuild which is in full swing, and looking for its second straight victory this Friday in Montreal when the Riders take on the Alouettes in a battle of 1-3 clubs.


Now to the newcomers.

Linebacker #27 Sam Eguavoen is one of 12 completely new players to the Saskatchewan Roughriders defence this year which continues to suffer its lumps, but is getting better every week. The team’s allowed the most points in the CFL but has played one less game than most other teams.

However as we know, Saskatchewan is coming off a victory and is hungry for the next one.  It’s a nice, new feeling for Eguavoen and his Rider teammates, to be practicing after a victory.

“It’s real nice,” Eguavoen observed on Tuesday.  “And I hear Montreal is a real nice city I wanna see.  This is my first time exploring Canada.  But this is a really big game against a good team coming up.  People undermine them because they’ve lost three in a row but they’re a physical team and a good team.”

The Dallas product came onto the Riders’ radar after a tryout camp in Dallas this winter and earned himself an invite to the spring minicamp in Florida, and then training camp in Saskatoon.  His solid play in the preseason forced us to find the correct pronunciation of his name and it’s “Ee-GWAH-Vun”.

For a guy who didn’t start playing football until his senior year in high school, Sam’s come a long way.  However after a solid career with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, the former safety found himself out of football and reluctantly looking at other career options.

“It hurt!” Eguavoen said of his one-year absence from the gridiron.  “In fact I didn’t even watch much football because it hurt so bad.  Shoot, I had a sales job at Footlocker and I’m a pretty good salesman.  I can talk you into buying anything.  But I thought ‘this can’t be my life!’  Then I saw on the internet the Riders were holding this camp and I tried out.  I thank God and Coach Jones because I don’t know where I’d be without this team.”

Jones agrees.

“He’s a guy that just walked up,” Jones said of Eguavoen’s tryout in Dallas.  “I had never heard of him.  But his head coach at Texas Tech was our third-string quarterback for a cup of coffee in Montreal.  Sam was able to do some real good things at that camp; he was able to cover and pass rush and he jumped out at us.”

As the Riders enter Week 6 of the season, Eguavoen is third on the team in tackles (16) and has chipped in with a pair of pass knockdowns.

Watch for #47 on the field on game day.

He’s hard to miss.

» Bio: Samuel Eguavoen
» July Rookie Report: Eguavoen among early standouts

Matt Smith/CFL.ca

Samuel Eguavoen makes a play in his team’s first win of the season against the REDBLACKS (CFL.ca)

The Roughriders are headed to Montreal this week, a city that typically has been a “House of Horrors” for the green guys over the years. However, the tortorous 2015 season ended on a good note at Percival Molson Stadium as Brett Smith rallied the Riders to a 30-24 overtime victory in a Week 19 game which Keith Price started.  Smith is now with the Ottawa REDBLACKS while Price is toiling with the BC Lions.

Time marches on.

And whether you’re satisfied with Saskatchewan’s 1-3 record to start the 2016 season is up to you but you can’t argue the entertainment factor.  The Riders have been involved in some real nail-biters and it appears things are finally starting to fall their way.  It’s been must-see TV, no matter what the final score turned out to be.

After this Montreal game, the Riders head into a back-to-back set with the archrival Calgary Stampeders which begins in Calgary on Thursday, August 4 and concludes back at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday, August 13.

That’s right, there isn’t another Roughriders home game in this Farewell Season for about three more weeks and, sadly, it’ll be the last-ever “summer” game at the stadium formerly known as Taylor Field.


You have to be there.

If anyone’s paying attention, the weather during this scorching Saskatchewan summer has been particularly perfect for the Roughriders’ four home games.  The last one was the greatest in my opinion, and many of the 30,172 fans in attendance for the Ottawa game said Mosaic Stadium hasn’t been that loud since the 2013 Grey Cup.

When the Riders were coming back against the REDBLACKS on the arm of Mitchell Gale, the foot of Tyler Crapigna and on the legs of the pass rushers who ate up Ottawa quarterback Brock Jensen in the final minute, the Grand Ol’ Lady was coming unhinged.  Sure madness.

Only six games remain at the old Mosaic Stadium.

Are you going to be here?