Samuel Eguavoen is back and hopes to be better than ever.
The Roughriders linebacker impressed last season as the outside linebacker before being sidelined with a knee injury that ended his season.
Before the injury Eguavoen had 20 defensive tackles, two special-teams stops, two pass knockdowns and one tackle for loss through Saskatchewan’s first five games.
Rehab was hard, according to Eguavoen, but not as hard as watching the Riders bring in new players who wanted to take his roster spot.
“You just go ‘oh man, I got to beat this dude out, I got to beat that guy out’, but you just got to focus on yourself, focus on you,” he said. “I’m just glad to be back.”
And encouragingly he’s back at a similar pace to where he left off. This season, Eguavoen has played six games and gathered 22 defensive tackles, a sack and received praise from his head coach for his special team play.
“Sammy’s a very good football player,” Chris Jones said. “He’s a tremendous athlete, he can play multiple positions for us … he can play mike and will (linebacker), so he’s a very versatile player.”
“It feels great,” Eguavoen said about being able to get back out with the defense. “I was down and out after six games and couldn’t make it back, but this year I feel like (the defense is) really just gelling as a group.”
Something he said was on full display against B.C. two weeks ago when the Rider defense walked all over the Lions defense.
Eguavoen said good communication was at the centre of the dominant defensive performance which featured a record breaking four interceptions by Ed Gainey. The defense also amassed four sacks and a forced fumble and Eguavoen led the team with six defensive tackles.
“We all just really did our job,” Eguavoen said. “We just trusted each other.”
Now he’s looking to build on last week’s strong performance with another one this week. He doesn’t feel like he’s quite at the level he was before his injury, so he’s itching to keep growing.
“I feel like I’m gradually increasing every week. Everybody tries to get better every day, every week, every practice. I don’t even feel like I’m almost there yet,” he explained.
But Jones stressed Eguavoen shouldn’t be so hard on himself.
“I think he’s pretty close physically to what he was last year. He seems to change direction, he’s certainly got good speed,” Jones said. “He’s an awful good player.”