The last time Samuel Eguavoen was on a winning team it wasn’t even a football team.
The Roughriders sophomore linebacker said the last team he was on that came close to winning the big prize was actually his high school basketball team.
That’s in part why the team’s turnaround from Eguavoen’s first year as a Rider to now is such a big deal for him.
“It’s crazy, this season is night and day from last year,” he said after Sunday afternoon’s eastern semi-final.
“It’s unbelievable because I haven’t been on a winning team since I played high school basketball. So now it’s just kind of like ‘I hope I can keep on with their pace because they’re a winning team now.’ Saskatchewan’s a winning team now and I’m just trying to do my part.”
His part looked pretty good on Sunday when he snagged a key interception in the first quarter, putting an end to a back and forth down the field that saw the Riders score, the Redblacks answer and the Riders score again.
It was his first career interception.
“It was long overdue too, man, I needed that one,” he said, adding getting it came from studying the Redblacks and their tendencies.
“The thing about football is you just got to trust it, trust what you see and go get it and that’s just how it was. I didn’t care what route was out there, I was just going to get it,” he said.
Eguavoen was given a little extra time to study the Redblacks as head coach Chris Jones opted to rest him ahead of the team’s Nov. 12 playoff game.
He was injured in late October, but Jones had insisted all along sitting Eguavoen was precautionary.
That was not the case last year though. Eguavoen was a standout player for the Riders in his rookie year before he sustained a season-ending knee injury just seven games into the season.
Rehab was hard on Eguavoen, but not as hard as watching the Riders bring in players to fight for his spot in the lineup.
“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.
That focus saw Eguavoen come back to the Riders with a renewed fight. He thought he was still a few steps behind where he wanted to be, but Jones said he didn’t need to 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 … He’s an awful good player.”
Eguavoen’s comeback season culminated with 57 regular season tackles and a quarterback sack.
And of course now an interception.
“I just knew it was my time to get back and try to and help the defence,” Eguavoen said.
Which is something he said is easy to do when his team is as bonded as the Roughriders are.
“There’s not one person on this defence that I don’t trust. So I know if I just do my job on the back end, the DBs are going to do theirs and on the front, the (defensive) line’s going to do theirs, so I just got to make plays when they present themselves.”
Now Eguavoen is hoping that that trust can help his team make history – and become the first ever crossover team to make it the Grey Cup.