When it didn’t work out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there was no other place but Riderville for Jeff Knox Jr.
The 25-year-old linebacker was one of the last players to be cut by the Bucs earlier this month and he hung around for a chance to play on the practice roster, but eventually decided he didn’t want to wait any longer.
“There’s no guarantees, that’s what I was told,” Knox Jr. said. “I’d rather start playing football first now, instead of waiting around.”
And despite having offers from other CFL teams, he never really gave their offers a second thought.
“I bleed green, it’s as simple as that,” Knox Jr. said about the reason he came back to Saskatchewan.
That and the fans.
“Hands down. Ain’t no fans like this (place) here. It makes it an awesome place to play,” he said.
Head coach Chris Jones was happy to have Knox Jr. back too, putting him straight to work on special teams.
Jones is confident he’ll be able to make an impact right away.
“He’s in great shape. Knoxy knows exactly what it takes to play at a high level,” Jones said.
“What people don’t realize last year he didn’t miss a practice or a game and he had two sports hernias, which is not easy to play with one much less two, and he had surgery on both of them. He never missed a game.”
Jones’ affection for Knox came to the forefront last year at the end of the season when he said he was going to do everything in his power to help the young linebacker have a chance in the NFL, including making phone calls on his behalf.
“Quite honestly I’ll do everything in my power to help the kid because he’s been loyal to me,” Jones said at the time.
And Knox Jr. said in November that if it didn’t work out in the NFL, he’d return to the Roughriders.
He’s a man of his word. Knox Jr. signed a contract that will keep him with the team to the end of the season.
“The coaching staff is a great staff, you got to be around them to understand the loyalty and the trust in these guys and that they installed in me and the other on this team … that was a big part of my decision was these guys here, this coaching staff,” he said.
The relationships he formed with Jones and the rest of the coaches kept him in contact with the team throughout his NFL tryout and made the transition back to the CFL easy for everyone.
“We kept in touch and knew what his prognosis was and once he ended up getting released, we started working on getting him here,” Jones said.
The popular linebacker burst into the Roughriders consciousness in 2015. A bright star in an abysmal season, Knox Jr. was the team’s rookie of the year, defensive player of the year and most outstanding player. He also set a team record for defensive tackles at 114.