Former CFL head coach Chris Jones brought Willie Jefferson to Canada in 2014.
“It’s well publicized where Willie has come from as he got drafted and all the issues that he had prior. And I’m not trying to conjure up old thoughts. But I can’t be more proud of that young man because and I’ll be honest with you, the first year in Edmonton was very tough. I had some coaches saying we need to move on,” Jones told The Rod Pedersen Show.
“And I said anybody can coach the ones that come every day ready. It’s the guys like him that decides whether you’re a good coach or not. It came down to Willie deciding, but when Willie decided I’m going to do this, I’m going to be a pro, I’m going to work hard for my family. When he decided to do that and he matured we got him to that point and he’s done the rest.”
Jones and Jefferson spent parts of five CFL seasons together, two with the Eskimos and three in Saskatchewan. The 53-year-old spent the 2019 season with the Cleveland Browns and knows what it takes for a player to make an active NFL roster.
The CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player worked out for the Miami Dolphins in December. Jefferson had a great showing in front of the Dolphins’ staff. In fact, Miami cut it short because Jefferson displayed everything the personnel men wanted to see – walking away with a strong positive impression.
“The good thing is Chris Rossetti, he’s down there in Miami. And they got an open mind on bringing the Canadian kids down. Willie’s gotta be physical, the physicality part on it is the part we’ve talked about for years,” Jones said.
“He’s going to have to go down there and show that he can play the run and he’s going to have to show that he can do some in the special teams area. But athletically, there’s not a whole lot of people that are going to be more athletic than Willie. He’s six-seven, 240, runs 4.5 — those just don’t grow on trees. He’s got a chance to do some things.”
Jefferson posted a career-high 12 sacks, forced six fumbles and knocked down a CFL single-season record 16 passes. He added 24 tackles, five tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and one interception in 2019. The 28-year-old was named a CFL all-star for the third straight season.
During the 107th Grey Cup, Jefferson was a one man wrecking crew recording three sacks and forcing two fumbles to help the Blue Bombers upset Hamilton in the Grey Cup 33-12, hoisting the big silver trophy for the first time in 29 years. Jefferson has turned down multiple other NFL workout requests.
“Athletically he can do some things that some people can’t do. He’s just gotta be physical. You never know what some of the personnel guys are thinking about a guy,” Jones said.
“Whether he gets a shot in the NFL or not, he’s a great CFL player and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m proud of the 17 years that I spent up there and I defend the CFL every day. Regardless of whether he gets a shot of not he’s a great player.”