Riders’ REC Samuel Emilus back ‘where he wanted to be’ after NFL workout tour

Photo: Timothy Matwey/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Samuel Emilus isn’t crying over spilt NFL milk now that he’s signed a contract extension with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“To really keep it simple, that’s where I wanted to be,” the Canadian receiver told reporters earlier this week. “The team took a chance on me and drafted me early in 2022, and I just felt like it was the right decision to be here long term.”

Emilus looked like he could be southbound following a breakout season in 2023, booking workouts with five NFL teams this offseason. Though the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, and Green Bay Packers all provided positive reviews, none pulled the trigger on a contract.

“In general, all the feedback was that they like what they see on film. I can get the ball, catch it, high point and stuff. Most of them were like, ‘We’ll see where we fit’ and just basically gave me good feedback,” he said. “Obviously, they decided to go in another direction, which is fine because at the end of the day, I was in a good position with the Roughriders anyway. It is what it is.”

Emilus cemented that position by inking a one-year extension with the Riders on Monday, pushing the terms of his current contract through 2025. While the new deal will not preclude him from further exploring American opportunities during the NFL window next offseason, it represents a significant commitment to the team that took him seventh overall two years ago.

In that, he followed the lead of fellow Canadian receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker. It was the third-year standout’s recovery from hip surgery that forced his teammate into a starting role last season, but he also set a precedent by signing an extension with the Riders last April after an extensive NFL workout tour.

“Our situation was a little different because when he was going through his extension, he was coming off an injury,” Emilus said. “At the end of the day, the only thing he told me is as long as it makes sense to you and that’s where you want to be, just move forward with it. And that’s exactly what I did.”

The 26-year-old caught 70 passes for 1,097 yards and six touchdowns in 2023, setting all new career highs. He finished top-ten league-wide in all major receiving categories and was Saskatchewan’s nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian.

The Montreal native was just the fifth Canadian receiver in Riders’ history to record a 1,000-yard season, joining legends Ray Elgaard, Jeff Fairholm, Chris Getzlaf, and Andy Fantuz. He is expected to serve as the lead weapon in a talented trio of homegrown pass catchers in 2024 and believes he can still reach new heights alongside Schaffer-Baker and Brayden Lenius.

“I feel like last year was just a little preview of what I can do really. I feel like I can help the team even more next year, on and off the field,” Emilus said. “I feel like I’mma still make the plays I can when the throw’s my way and just keep on grinding. Obviously, the end goal is to win so as long as we can do that, I feel like it’s gonna be progress for me individually and for the team.”

Emilus has recommitted to a franchise that has struggled in recent years, missing the playoffs in each of his seasons with the team. Now under the leadership of head coach Corey Mace and offensive coordinator Marc Mueller, he sees renewed hope and the chance for bigger plays than ever before.

“There’s a good energy coming into the season with a new coaching staff. I feel like the sky’s the limit for us,” he said. “Obviously, last year we had an injury bug at the quarterback position but this year, we’re starting back at square zero. We’re excited. I think it’s gonna be an explosive playbook and we’re just ready to get rolling.”

The Riders will open their 2024 regular season on Saturday, June 8 when they visit the Edmonton Elks at Commonwealth Stadium.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.