Jefferson, Jeffcoat happy to share spotlight in Winnipeg: ‘It’s about the defence and we take that to heart’

Photo courtesy: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Defensive ends Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat recently re-signed with the Blue Bombers, returning for a third consecutive season as the bookends along Winnipeg’s defensive line.

“We go out there and we fight as one and we win as one. And when the accolades come, it’s not all about me, it’s not all about Jackson. It’s about the defence and we take that to heart. That’s something that me and Jackson talk about all throughout the year, especially during the off-season when we’re out here in Texas getting our grind on in this heat,” said Jefferson.

The pass rushers were born in Texas just 36 days apart. Jefferson was born in the state’s southwest corner in Beaumont, while Jeffcoat was born in Dallas where his father, Jim, played a decade with the Cowboys. Both players remained in-state for college with Jefferson playing at Baylor and Stephen F. Austin and Jeffcoat playing at Texas.

“I think me and Willie feed off each other. We feed off each other really well. We compete with each other — healthy, brotherly competition — but we do compete with each other and I think that brings the best out of both of us,” said Jeffcoat.

Though Jefferson plans to permanently move his family to Winnipeg in the coming months, he and Jeffcoat currently live in Austin and work with the same off-season trainer, Tim Crowder. Crowder was a second-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2007 and played five years in the NFL before transitioning to a career in coaching.

“[Crowder] brings it out of us, too. He always wants us to compete with each other. He’ll ask questions and see who’s better,” said Jeffcoat. “He knows that it brings out the best in guys and he knows that we both care about each other and we’re not going to make it toxic or make it detrimental to our team.”

Winnipeg’s defence led the CFL in a number of categories in 2021, including points allowed (13.4 per game), net yards allowed (281.3 per game), and takeaways (38). Jefferson recorded 18 tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions, while Jeffcoat made 26 tackles, nine sacks, and four forced fumbles.

Both players were named CFL all-stars with Jefferson earning his fourth consecutive selection and Jeffcoat receiving his first. It would have been perfectly reasonable if either player chose to leave Winnipeg via free agency in search of a brighter spotlight, but that’s not the direction either player wanted to go in 2022.

“It’s a camaraderie with me and Jackson. Us both being from Texas, us both having athletic backgrounds and things like that. That’s just us having that mindset of, ‘I want to make him better, he wants to make me better.’ And at the end of the day, I’m not going to let him outshine me. I want to put out good tape, he wants to put out good tape,” said Jefferson.

“He wants to show his friends, his family, his city, his college that he’s out here putting in that work, he’s out here putting up the numbers and I’m doing the same thing. I’m putting on for my family, for my city, and everybody that’s watching, so I’m not going to go out there and be mediocre. I’m not going to go out there and let none of my guys be mediocre. I hold myself responsible to hold my guys accountable.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.