March 22, 2024

Roosevelt, Sherritt help prospects shine at CFL Combine

Cameron Bartlett/

Naaman Roosevelt could sense the nerves around him.

The 12-year professional veteran receiver and now the receivers coach for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Roosevelt is the receivers coach this week at the CFL Combine presented by New Era.

As the prospects shifted from testing on Thursday to their first day of practice on Friday, Roosevelt said you could feel the anxious energy of a group of players that wanted to be at their best.

“It’s a lot of things going on in here right now,” Roosevelt said, having come away from Day 1 impressed with UCONN receiver Kevens Clericus. “A lot of nerves, a lot of excitement, a lot of everything right now.

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“(On Friday), we were just getting a feel for things and I think we did a good job. We made a couple of completions in skelly and the one-on-ones were pretty good. I think just getting that first day down, now everybody can relax and just play football.”

On the defensive side of the ball, J.C. Sherritt was running the linebackers through their first day of practice. The former Edmonton Elk is back in the CFL coaching ranks as the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ linebackers coach and run game coordinator this year, after a five-year trek through the NCAA ranks that saw him work at Washington State, Auburn and Cal Poly. He last worked in the CFL as the Calgary Stampeders’ linebackers coach in 2019.

Sherritt came away from that opening practice impressed with linebackers Joel Dublanco and Global Eteva Mauga-Clements.

“Your whole goal is just to be clear with instruction and put these guys in the best position to perform,” Sherritt said of his approach to the first day of practices. “It’s an honour to be able to coach out here so that’s my entire goal, is to put them in a position to perform.”

While the two former players-turned coaches have their focus on helping the prospects showcase their abilities this week, the positional coaching gig provides some unique and valuable experience for them, as well.

Roosevelt worked as the Riders’ offensive assistant last season, before Ticats’ head coach Scott Milanovich reached out to him when he was hired on in December to join his staff for 2024. The Buffalo, NY native jumped at the chance to work with a coach he’d long appreciated and for the chance to be closer to home.

“It’s a perfect spot,” he said. “These past couple of months, just been learning a lot from them and enjoying it. Coach Scott is a smart guy. Learning from him and how detailed he is, he’s helped me out.”

Sherritt had worked alongside new Riders’ head coach Corey Mace in Calgary in 2019, along with Joshua Bell and Marc Mueller, who will serve as Mace’s pass game coordinator and defensive backs coach and offensive coordinator, respectively. He said that when he left the CFL in 2019 that he knew he’d be back eventually. When Mace approached him about the job, it felt like the perfect opportunity.

“The chance to work with people you really respect and enjoy is not something I take for granted,” Sherritt said.

“Me and my wife just moved up full time March 1. Obviously, the facilities are pretty nice, so it’s a joy to go to work and I get to work with those guys again. We were apart for five years so to see how everybody’s grown and the football IQ, how high it’s gone, it’s a joy to go to work.”

You never know what your team will look like until it hits the field, but both coaches feel good about what their respective GMs have assembled through the winter. Like many loyal to the Ticats, Roosevelt was on the edge of his seat over the re-signing of star receiver Tim White. With him back in the lineup and some changes on the defensive side of the ball, he’s eager to get to camp to see what they can put together.

“I think our defence is already top notch,” White said. “We’re excited as an offence of who we’ve got and especially the young guys we’re bringing in. We’ve got a couple of big time tight ends and big time receivers we’re bringing in so we’re excited with our roster.”

Sherritt has seen firsthand how quickly a team’s fortunes can change for the positive in the CFL, having been a part of two big bounce-back Edmonton clubs in 2011 and in 2014. He’s hoping for something similar this year in Saskatchewan, where the Riders have missed the playoffs the last two seasons.

“I’m an optimist, always when it comes to that stuff,” Sherritt said.

“You don’t know until you get out to camp, really what you’ve got. I know what our head coach is and what type of atmosphere he’ll create and not just him, but the organization in general. It truly is a joy for me to go to work. And usually when it’s a joy for a coach to go to work, it’s a joy for players to go to work. So I’m excited.”

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