‘History and longevity’ drew former Rider Jonathan Woodard to CFL over other pro football options

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Jonathan Woodard has signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, but his year with the Saskatchewan Roughriders proved to him that he made the right decision in coming north to continue his football career.

The 28-year-old defensive end joined The Rod Pedersen Show on Thursday in the midst of plenty of conversation surrounding alternative pro football options south of the border. While Woodard understands the variety of personal reasons that would prompt a player to pick spring football,  the CFL was always the clear choice for him.

“To make an argument for the CFL, I think what enticed me was that I do think the USFL will have success, but a lot of the leagues in the past, they’ve been kind of one and done scenarios where there’s been issues and fallouts and a lot of unfortunate circumstances,” Woodard explained.

“I think what attracted me was the history and the longevity that the CFL has had and the fact that when I was going up there I knew I wasn’t going up into a situation where it wasn’t going to work and the season wouldn’t have the possibility to just be cut short. I had a good feeling for what I was going into. In my opinion, I feel like that should outweigh the feeling of being uncomfortable being that far from home.”

Prior to arriving in the CFL, the former seventh-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars had spent five seasons bouncing around the NFL with four different teams. He played in six career regular season NFL games over that span, recording 10 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack.

The Central Arkansas product finally had his breakout season in Saskatchewan, during which he recorded 10 sacks, the second-highest total in the league. He played all 14 regular season games during the shortened 2021 season with the Riders, recording 21 defensive tackles and two forced fumbles.

The native of Brentwood, Tenn. also suited up for both the West Semi-Final and the West Final, tallying another four defensive tackles and one sack in the playoffs..

Last week, an anonymous CFL insider told 3Down’s John Hodge that Woodard was one of the most polished plug-and-play pass rushers the league had ever seen, but the defensive end has been quick to point out the calibre of talent north of the border.

“I feel like sometimes people almost look down on the CFL in a way.  I think what a lot of people don’t realize is these are a lot of guys who played for great colleges, have been productive at great schools, and a lot of people have played in the NFL,” he said.

“There’s a lot of talent on CFL teams and I think sometimes people kind look down on the CFL in the way that I really don’t think is warranted. I feel like there’s definitely some respect due for the CFL, the talent and the league.”

Even since signing back in the NFL, Woodard has been making his high opinion of the three-down league known on social media. He wants every player to do what’s best for them, but believes more athletes and fans should be paying attention to Canada as an option.

“On one hand I’m talking to players who might not necessarily think the CFL is a great option for them or they don’t necessarily want to come up here for whatever reason. Then also other fans who might potentially be interested in the CFL, but they kind of have the stigma of there’s just not that much talent in the league and it’s not as good as the NFL,” Woodard said.

“I feel like if fans from the outside would look in and give it a chance, they would see just how much fun the league is and how much character and history is there and how much the subtle nuances of the game can be very interesting and exciting once you get into it.”

Woodard will be a long-term supporter of the league no matter where the rest of his career takes him and in so doing, has an entire country of fans rooting for him.