Former Riders LB Sam Eguavoen nearly quit football after the 2017 CFL season, but refocused and made it to the NFL

Photo courtesy: Miami Dolphins

Former Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Sam Eguavoen almost hung up his helmet and shoulder pads for good after the 2017 CFL season.

Eguavoen suffered a torn MCL knee ligament, which ended his rookie season in Canada after just six games in 2016. The next year Eguavoen was rotating with Jeff Knox Jr. and felt he had a “mediocre” campaign.

“That off-season after the 2017 season, I really didn’t want to go back to Canada. I wanted to see if I could get out of my contract, try to wing it in the NFL or just stop playing football,” Eguavoen said on The Rod Pedersen Show.

“My parents told me to finish out the year, whatever happens, happens — you’ll live to see another day. That 2018 season I was just so locked in, I didn’t know anything that was going on in the NFL, I didn’t know anything that was going on in America. From there I just had a great season, I took every game, every play like it was my last.”

“I barely knew what was going on in my household because I was so locked in on CFL football, so locked in on the Saskatchewan Roughriders, so locked in on our defence, so locked in on everything coach Chris Jones was saying, Jason Shivers was saying, Craig Dickenson was saying, and nobody could tell me nothing.”

Eguavoen made 81 tackles, 10 special teams tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception and scored two defensive touchdowns in his third year in the CFL. That production led to Eguavoen working out for 10 NFL teams in December 2018 and eventually he signed with the Miami Dolphins over other offers.

The 28-year-old Eguavoen played in all 16 regular season games, starting six, for Miami in 2019 making 42 tackles, 3.5 sacks, defending one pass and recovered one fumble. The six-foot, 236-pound linebacker acquitted himself well and proved his ability at that level. He remembers his thoughts and feelings prior to playing in his first NFL game.

“The second I hit the tunnel, I’m just like, ‘I’m in the NFL, I’m about to play in the NFL.’ I just couldn’t believe it. All I was thinking is I’m not even supposed to be here, but I’m here. I will never forget that feeling, walking through that tunnel,” Eguavoen said.

“I just couldn’t help it, I felt tears coming down my eyes before the opening kick-off — this can’t be real. First kick-off, first NFL game, I made the tackle. All those tears turned straight into joy and straight into business because we had a game to play.”

The Dolphins improved from 5-11 during Eguavoen’s first year to 10-6 in his second in Miami. However, the athletic linebacker didn’t play as much on defence as the coaching staff focused him on special teams in 2020. Eguavoen played all 16 games as a core special teamer while recording nine tackles and defending on pass on defence.

“The work never stops. The NFL by no means it’s not easy at all — every day your job is on the line. Rent is due everyday, the hay is never in the barn. Every day you have to come to work or somebody in the CFL, they’re coming to take your spot,” Eguavoen said.

“I was that guy in the CFL just waiting for somebody in the NFL to slip up and I can go and take his spot. I keep that same mentality now, I know there’s a guy in Hamilton or a guy in Vancouver or wherever and he’s waiting for me to slip up, and I’m not going to let that happen.”

That focus has paid off for Eguavoen as he’s earned over $1.1 million through two seasons with the Dolphins.