Willie Jefferson wants to build Blue Bombers legacy like Doug Brown, Milt Stegall and Chris Walby

Photo: Arthur Ward/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Willie Jefferson wants to leave a legacy with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and referenced some of the biggest names in franchise history while discussing his goals for the future.

“You look into those rafters and see names like Doug Brown, Milt Stegall, (Chris) Walby — you want to be those guys. There’s things that I want to do, records that I want to break for this organization and things like that. You have to stay around to do that, so that’s what I plan on doing,” Jefferson told the media in Winnipeg.

“I hope I can go ’til I’m in my forties, as long as I can go. As long as I can be productive, as long as I can affect the game in a good enough way to help my team — I can play ’til whenever,” Jefferson said.

The 31-year-old signed a one-year contract extension with the team, tying him to Winnipeg through February 2024. It appears to have been an easy decision for Jefferson to return for a fourth season with the Blue Bombers as he listed his reasons for re-signing so far in advance of free agency getting underway.

“The culture, the friendships that I’ve built with teammates, with the coaches, the organization, the community, and things like that. It feels like home. It feels good to be here and I just really didn’t want to be anywhere else but Winnipeg right now,” Jefferson said.

The native of Beaumont, Texas indicated that his wife, Holly, and daughter, Kelley, love living in Winnipeg since the family made it their year-round home last spring. The family recently welcomed a new daughter, Rielley, born in Winnipeg in September. This is the family’s first child to be born north of the border.

“For me to have a Canadian daughter, it’s amazing,” Jefferson said. “I can’t wait to just show her the world through my eyes and do everything I can to help raise her to be a beautiful Canadian citizen.”

Jefferson recorded 33 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception, and one touchdown this past year and was named a West Division all-star for a fifth consecutive season. He was held off the CFL’s all-star list for the first time since 2017 with Ottawa’s Lorenzo Mauldin IV and Calgary’s Shawn Lemon, this year’s finalists for Most Outstanding Defensive Player, earning the two defensive end spots.

The six-foot-seven, 245-pound defender tied for ninth league-wide in sacks, finishing behind a number of lesser-known players including Sione Teuhema, Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, and Anthony Lanier II. Jefferson acknowledged that his production has dropped while pointing out that the attention he draws from opposing offences creates better opportunities for his teammates to make plays.

“I did get a lot of double teams, a lot of slot attention, a lot of chips from the running back and things like that and they helped out our defensive line,” he said. “I take pride in that, it’s a privilege to have that type of thing coming from an offensive standpoint, but I want to be able to get that and still win, still be able to get to a quarterback, still be able to get sacks, to be able to get interceptions, help out my defence as much as I can.”

It’s been over a week since the Blue Bombers lost the 109th Grey Cup against the Toronto Argonauts, ending the team’s championship streak that dated back to 2019. With enough time passing to process the initial emotions of the loss, Jefferson remembered this past season fondly and plans to use it as motivation for the future.

“We had a great season. This group of guys was different from 2019, 2021 and that was special. We grew as a team, we had a bond. Offence, defence, special teams made some amazing plays throughout the season. We made it to the Grey Cup three years in a row and that’s something that we could be proud of,” he said.

“It didn’t end the way we wanted it to but it went down to the last play, the last second and that’s something that we can be proud of. That’s something that we can build on next year, and that’s something that I told the guys at the end of the season is going to drive each and every one of us in a different way this off-season to be better, to come back stronger, faster, more ready for those situations.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.