The Saskatchewan Roughriders are expected to have a strong defensive line this season, thanks to players like Demarcus Christmas who have improved the team’s depth.
Christmas returns for his second season in Saskatchewan after completing his first campaign in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Along with Miles Brown, the pair received a lot of playing time following the injury to defensive tackle Anthony Lanier II and the suspension and subsequent release of Garrett Marino.
The 27-year-old says it was good to be back on the field after a couple of inactive seasons.
“Being my first professional season without getting injured, so it was a great deal coming off an Achilles rupture for the first time playing.”
The defensive tackle suffered the injury in the 2021 offseason while he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 6th round of the 2019 National Football League (NFL) Draft but was placed on the team’s PUP/injured list that season. He spent some time on the Seahawks practice squad in 2020.
Christmas joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders last May. He played in 15 games, wearing the green and white uniform. He made 22 tackles and added a sack.
With some game experience under his belt, the native of Bradenton, Florida, feels comfortable entering his sophomore campaign with the Roughriders.
“A little more relaxing, you know what you’re getting into, you know what the grind takes, you know what you have to work on.”
As an American defensive lineman playing in Canada for the first time, Christmas had to adjust by moving one yard off the line of scrimmage. He believes the change is advantageous to a defensive lineman because it provides extra momentum when moving forward.
Even with the return of Lanier back to full strength and the addition of veteran Micah Johnson to the Saskatchewan defensive line, the Roughriders may have to turn to the tandem of Christmas and Brown once again in 2023 as a part of the group’s rotation.
Christmas says the duo share a strong bond.
“One of my closest friends, you know coming in together, figuring it out together, we room together, we pretty much do everything together.”
The Riders defensive tackle is glad to have Lanier back in the lineup.
“All you can do is love him.”
Mosaic Stadium is home to one of the best entrances in sports when the Roughriders “Bring Em’ Out” for each home game, but Christmas is used to getting goosebumps walking out from his locker room.
During his time at Florida State, Christmas witnessed one of the most impressive entrance moments in college football when he played at Doak Campbell Stadium.
With nearly 80,000 fans singing along to the Seminole War Chant motioning the tomahawk chop, the team’s mascot Osceola, representing the historical Seminole leader Osceola, charges onto the field on the top of his Appaloosa horse, Renegade, and plants a burning spear into the turf at midfield at Bobby Bowden Field. The leaders of the Seminole Tribe of Florida have approved the portrayal.
The experience in Tallahassee is something Christmas will never forget.
“One of the greatest crowds I have ever played in front of, man, it’s a little bit overwhelming, you’re just surrounded and the ground shakes, goes crazy.”
In his final season wearing garnet and gold, Christmas was named the Seminoles Most Valuable Defensive Lineman when he played alongside Brian Burns, who would become a first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2019. Burns has now solidified himself as one of the top pass rushers in the National Football League and earned himself a pair of Pro Bowls.
The Roughriders defensive tackle, despite having a last name like Christmas, hasn’t had much exposure to Canada’s extreme cold weather. However, he’s open to experiencing some snow this year, especially if it’s occurring in Hamilton on November 19, at Tim Horton’s Field during the Grey Cup.