‘I’m all in Rider Nation’: Derrick Moncrief ‘done with the NFL’ and wants to be in Regina for the long haul

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Like a wayward traveler, Derrick Moncrief has had his fill of adventure and is putting down anchor in his favourite port of call.

The all-star strongside linebacker signed a two-year deal with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in free agency, returning to the organization that inked him to his first professional contract in 2017. He’s been in three different cities since then, but for a small town kid from Prattville, Alabama, Regina was the only place he wanted to be.

“Man, I’m just at home. First place I played at, three years. Always knew that this place was like home to me,” Moncrief said. “Great family-based environment, the city, the fans, it’s everything you look for to be a professional athlete. You just wanna set your legacy and just continue to build.”

During his first tenure with the Riders, Moncrief played 35 regular season games over three seasons, racking up 126 defensive tackles, while adding four sacks, five interceptions and one forced fumble. He had a career year in 2019, that culminated in a CFL all-star nod, after making 69 tackles, four sacks, three interceptions and one forced fumble.

That performance earned him a shot in the NFL, first with the Las Vegas Raiders and then the Los Angeles Rams, before he returned to the CFL last season with the Edmonton Elks. Many wagered he would stay in the Alberta capital after former Riders’ head coach Chris Jones was hired to lead the Elks organization, but for Moncrief it was the city, not the man, that he was attached to. When he hit free agency, there was only one destination he seriously entertained.

“I was just hoping and praying and [Riders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day] reached out and got the deal done,” Moncrief admitted. “I’m just grateful to be here.”

His return to Saskatchewan ideally would have come several months sooner, as Moncrief’s camp had talked with the Riders when he was released by the Rams. The financial aspect of the deal couldn’t be ironed out at that time, but those early negotiations ensured that O’Day would come calling in February.

“We never wanted him to leave in the first place, so it was always something where we watched him and wished him well and followed him throughout. Even last year when he decided to come back, we were trying to get him back to Riderville but when you’re into the season, you’re dealing with salary cap issues that you only have the ability to spend to the cap,” the Riders’ GM explained.

“We certainly showed our interest at that time and it didn’t work out, but once he became a free agent, we reached out, I think as Derrick said on day one, and let him know that the feeling was mutual.”

From there, signing on the dotted line was simply a no-brainer for Moncrief. Turning 29 in June, he’s done with the NFL rat race and looking for a place to settle down.

“I’m all in Rider Nation, bleed green and white,” Moncrief emphasized. “We’re done with the NFL, we’re here now. This is where I’m supposed to be.”

While his deal only carries him through 2023, the linebacker hopes to stay even longer. His family will be with him come the 2022 season and they intend to become an embedded part of the Regina community. While Moncrief is thankful for the opportunity he had in other cities, there is no other place he’d rather be.

“It’s just in God’s plan, I truly believe that,” he smiled. “I just know this is my place. This is where I’m meant to be. This is where I’m meant to do great things on and off the field.”

Abbott is a UBC student, youth coach and lifelong CFL fanatic. He specializes in coverage of the CFL draft and the league's global initiative.