The Saskatchewan Roughriders weren’t willing to wait for ratio-breaking linebacker Cameron Judge.
The Riders invested a second overall draft choice and three years into the rare national talent, but the team chose to move on due to the timing of his NFL workout with the Las Vegas Raiders. That decision surprised Judge.
“A little bit, but it’s business. If they waited for me and I were to get the contract then that puts them in a bad position. That’s how it goes and that’s it. Sask had moves to make and that’s part of the business, that’s the risk I took,” Judge said.
The Toronto Argonauts understood Judge wanted to take his chances with the Raiders. Vice president of player personnel John Murphy and general manager Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons were respectful of the situation and willing to be patient just for the possibility to sign an impact player such as Judge.
“They wanted the best for me and they just let me know if it doesn’t work out, they really wanted me to come there,” Judge said.
“I’ve been sitting at home waiting for that for a couple months. When one popped up I really wanted to take that shot and see if I could make something out of it.”
The ultra-athletic defender worked out for the Raiders on Thursday, February 11 — two days after the opening of CFL free agency. It was the team he grew up cheering for after being born in Montreal and moving to Los Angeles at a young age.
“The Raiders were my childhood team, I wore Raiders shoes to school in eighth grade. I’m happy with what I did, I don’t have regrets for going out there and trying to do what I do,” Judge said.
“The feedback was pretty good, I’m a little undersized, so I got that working against me. Get a couple more pounds on me and have another good season and whatever happens, happens.”
Following the session in Las Vegas, Judge shifted his focus to the CFL, the Argos and the possibility of winning a Grey Cup in 2021. Reigning three-down sack champion Charleston Hughes was recruiting Judge to the Double Blue so the two could become teammates again after two years together in Riderville.
“I had a couple chats with Charleston, he’s a guy I look up to in the way he handles himself and navigates the league. I listened to what he had to say and he did a pretty good job, he wants to win a championship and that’s what I want to do as well,” Judge said.
Former Riders’ head coach and general manager Chris Jones fell in love with Judge’s potential during the CFL Draft process in 2017. Jones likes to keep offences guessing and employs players who can line-up in various spots to confuse the opposition. Judge has developed into a dynamic pro who can play any linebacker position in the CFL.
“My rookie year I got injured and I was having some doubts if I even wanted to keep playing, and coach Jones was one of the biggest reasons that got me back there,” Judge said.
“When I did come back, I remember a few games in, he was telling me how proud of me he was and it was really special to hear that from a guy like coach Jones. I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and how he approaches work, practice, games.”
Judge learned from Jones, especially the mentality to put his all into his pro career. That elite potential Jones saw was similar to the ability former NFL pass rusher Clay Matthews believed Judge had in him while the two were at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, California.
“When I first got to high school, I was a running back — offence is what I did. My sophomore year he told me I had the chance to start at linebacker, but I would be defence only for that year,” Judge said.
“When someone like Clay Matthews tells you that you got a shot at something in your future, you take it. I did that and worked with him for three years, built the structure of who I am as a linebacker.”
That led to Judge becoming the highest-paid linebacker — regardless of passport — in the CFL on his one-year contract with the Argos. Judge is the latest big-name piece to be added by the Boatmen, which created uninformed speculation about Toronto being over the salary cap.
“I don’t really see why everyone is so concerned,” Judge said. “They can tweet and say all they want, it is what it is — I’m sure Pinball and Murphy know what they’re doing.”