With Jeffcoat mulling free agency, Bombers convinced him to stay by ‘showing they cared’

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Jackson Jeffcoat was blunt about it.

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He had every intention of testing the CFL free-agent waters next month, perhaps intrigued by the idea of getting the kind of elite money (by Canadian football standards) that is fitting for a team’s feature pass rusher.

“I thought about it hard,” Jeffcoat said from his home in Austin, Texas on Saturday.

“I thought I actually was going to go to free agency.”

Jeffcoat, a 31-year-old defensive end, was one of the best players on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2021, recording a career-high nine quarterback sacks, 26 tackles and four forced fumbles while helping his team to an 11-3 regular-season record and their second straight Grey Cup title.

He would have been a highly sought-after free agent come Feb. 8 and he could have gone to a team where he’d be a player to be built around, as opposed to being just one part of a great team defence in Winnipeg.

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But this past week, the Bombers sent public relations director — and unofficial assistant general manager — Darren Cameron to Texas, with the Grey Cup and a contract offer in hand.

It seems that helped Jeffcoat to have a change of heart as he signed a one-year contract extension worth a reported $175,000.

Former Longhorn Jackson Jeffcoat, of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, poses with the Grey Cup at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.
Former Longhorn Jackson Jeffcoat, of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, poses with the Grey Cup at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. Photo by Texas Football /Twitter

“They really showed how much they care about me, not only as a player but as a person,” Jeffcoat said. “That meant a lot to me.

“I felt like Winnipeg really showed that they cared about me and wanted me to be in Winnipeg. I think that’s more important than any amount of money that I could get if I went to free agency and went to another team.”

Jeffcoat had a day with the Grey Cup on Thursday, taking it to his alma mater, the University of Texas, and out to a dinner with family, where he filled the bowl with queso (Mexican cheese dip) and dipped corn chips in it.

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“It’s a special experience because I haven’t seen anybody bring the Grey Cup down to the States,” Jeffcoat said. “I know it has been here, maybe a handful of times, but it’s special to take my Winnipeg life, my life in Canada, and share it with Texas, share it with the University of Texas, share it with Austin.”

Fellow all-star defensive end Willie Jefferson, who also re-signed on Friday, got the Grey Cup the next day, taking it on a road trip to his hometown of Beaumont, Texas.

The twin towers have given the Bombers the most fearsome defensive line in the league over the last two seasons and it’s no coincidence that the team won back-to-back Grey Cups.

“We’ve had a special two years, with the two Grey Cups, and I look forward to having another one,” said Jeffcoat, who will play his fifth season in Winnipeg in 2022 after spending time in the NFL with the Washington Football Team.

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Former Longhorn Jackson Jeffcoat, of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, poses with the Grey Cup at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.
Former Longhorn Jackson Jeffcoat, of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, poses with the Grey Cup at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. Photo by Texas Football /Twitter

“It’s hard to put into words how great of a place Winnipeg is. It’s just special, from the fans, from the organization, just how people are willing to help, the culture with the team, the guys working hard for each other, always holding each other accountable, trying to be better.

“We leave our egos at the door and we just get to work. And you’ve got a head man in (coach Mike) O’Shea that knows how to win, who has been there before, who is always studying, who is always getting better, every year I’ve been there. I feel like I’ve become a better player every year that I’ve been in Winnipeg. There’s so many good things I can say about the city and the team. It’s another home away from home.”

Jeffcoat has often leaned on the experiences of his father Jim, who played in the NFL for 15 years, as he navigates the pro football waters. He did so again this off-season, remembering that his father left the Dallas Cowboys after 12 seasons to join the Buffalo Bills as a free agent.

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As Jackson tells it, the Cowboys weren’t willing to pay Jim what he felt he was worth after such a long time in the organization — and two Super Bowl championships — so he took what Buffalo was offering in 1995.

“That’s the team they had beaten two years in a row in the Super Bowl,” Jackson said. “He finished his career well out there, the last three years in Buffalo. He loved it there, he didn’t have any problems with being there, but Dallas went and won the Super Bowl in 1995 (game was played in 1996) and me, looking back, I know that was a little frustrating because the Cowboys didn’t want him, or they weren’t willing to pay.

“I didn’t know if that was gonna be a similar situation for me. Now Winnipeg comes and it’s a different story. Winnipeg was willing to pay and was willing to show how much they want me. They brought the Cup down here, they sent Darren Cameron down here to come get together with us and bring the Cup. It’s just special.”

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Jeffcoat seems to have really come into his own in recent years. Quiet and reserved when he first arrived in Winnipeg in 2017, Jeffcoat has opened up more in recent years and has become a leader on a team full of them.

“It has to do with being in a comfortable situation,” Jeffcoat said. “I trust them, they trust me. I was able to really be myself and be able to speak out when I need to. “When I came in. I was just quiet. I wanted to see what was going on. I didn’t know anything and I didn’t want to come in as this arrogant guy who was at the University of Texas and was just coming from the NFL. I wanted to see what the CFL was about.

“Initially I came in with the goal of getting back to the NFL and then I fell in love with the CFL and really enjoyed it. I realized this is a great league, great career, great place to live, and I want to be here. I stopped looking at ‘Ooh I can go to the NFL maybe next year’ and started thinking, ‘I want to be great in the CFL.’”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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