Toronto – Every week a CFL game centres on a quarterback and high profile receivers. They’re the biggest reason why people watch and what makes the game so exciting. So much of how the league sells itself revolves around offense and touchdowns. Rules like the waggle, no contact after five yards, and the ability to challenge pass interference were put in place for the sole purpose to increase scoring. From the defensive side of the ball it’s a daunting task just to try and slow down an offense executing on all cylinders let alone stopping them altogether. As a defensive back you’re as likely to make the highlight reel because you got beat for a touchdown rather than an interception. That challenge is something that second year cornerback A.J. Jefferson cherishes each and every week.
It’s why we come out here. Every week you wanna go up against the best because that’s a great measure of where you are as a football player. Yes it’s a show of respect if they don’t throw to your side but honestly, if they didn’t I’d just get bored.
The native of California had a relatively successful first season in the CFL. Enjoying the diversity of his new home town the 28 year old started all 18 games with Toronto; recorded three interceptions which included a pick six against Saskatchewan and returned a special team punt for a touchdown against the Blue Bombers. It was a season he could build upon and prepared during the off season to do just that.
Unfortunately a football player is never too far from adversity and why Jefferson’s sophomore season didn’t begin the way he wanted it too. A knee injury during training camp saw Jefferson miss the first 3 games of the season. Once healthy the boundary corner out of Fresno State got matched up against Ottawa’s Chris Williams who was averaging a mere 164 receiving yards a game and a league high 6 touchdowns. Welcome back A.J. Though Toronto lost to Ottawa Jefferson was able to keep Williams in check with a modest game of 6 receptions for 66 yards. One thing he credits as to how he can come back with little to no transition even though the team’s defensive schemes have changed is new defensive coordinator Rich Stubler.
He’s an amazing coach. Really good at giving guys the freedom to do what they have to do on the field but always making sure that were communicating out there with each other so we can be in the best position to get stops.
Things don’t get any easier this upcoming Monday for Jefferson and the Argos as they host Montreal with game breaker Duron Carter who head coach Scott Milanovich calls, “as talented as a receiver there is in this league.” For Jefferson it’s a 1 on 1 battle he’s looking forward to but not focused on.
If I’m the guy that has to man up against him than I’ll just appreciate the confidence the team and coaching staff has in me and do whatever it takes to help my team get a win. But we prepare against teams as a whole. We focus on their offensive schemes and come up with way to stop them.
Very humble words from a team first player. Of course any individual success can’t be heralded for very long since in the CFL another great receiver and challenge awaits.
Written by Anthony Ciardulli
Follow Anthony on twitter @comicanthony