Riders C.J. Reavis is ready to set the standard in 2024

C.J. Reavis emerged as one of the defensive stars for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2023.

Now with a new contract in his hand, the linebacker/defensive back is look to continue his ascension in 2024.

On Monday, Reavis joined the Sportscage with Michael Ball, as he continues his preparations for the season.

DB C.J. Reavis. Photo: Saskatchewan Roughriders

After a part-time role last year, the 28-year-old plans to take on an increased leadership role this season.

“I tried to lead by example, or I tried to lead by my work ethic,” said Reavis, “I feel like I’m the hardest worker, then guys follow by suit. If I need to, I can rah-rah too.”

Last season, the native of Chester, VA, split time between Safety and Strongside Linebacker for the green and white. He recorded 59 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception.

For as long as he can remember, Reavis dreamt of playing football professionally.

“My dad put a football in my hand really early,” said the Roughriders linebacker, who noted he was probably wearing a Washington jersey during his first Christmas.

“Ever since then I wanted to play pro ball.”

The journey for Reavis now finds himself in Saskatchewan as he’s about to enter his third season with the Roughriders. When he first came up north, Reavis thought he would enjoy a seamless transition to the Canadian Football League (CFL), but he was caught off guard by the waggle, a unique feature of the Canadian game.

“You don’t know until you know,” said the Roughriders linebacker. “I thought it was not going to be that hard either until I got here, but this is crazy.”

Before he earned his stripes on defence, Reavis had to work his way up on the depth by establishing himself on special teams. With the league discussing possible rule changes that would limit kickoffs, which would limit the impact of special teams, Reavis feels that would be a mistake to the game.

“That’s how I made my mark and got the respect of my teammates and my coaches,” he added, “I feel like if you take away that out of the game, you’re taking away chances for young guys to earn their mark or their respect too.”

Reavis understands the safety component of why there is a discussion about altering kickoffs but thinks it would eliminate some valuable positions.

The value of defensive players is something that Reavis has called into question this offseason. In a series of posts on X, he wondered why defensive backs don’t receive a significant payday like the offensive skilled positions. Reavis thinks it’s not a situation where offensively skilled players are not getting their fair share; he believes that defensive backs should be paid similarly.

“We have to cover guys on the field that is twice as big, in the endzone that’s twice as long, I feel like we should be rewarded for that.” He added that the defensive players who perform at the highest level should be the ones who are rewarded financially.

During his offseason training, Reavis expressed his excitement for the upcoming season. A few changes, including a new head coach, Corey Mace, await the SAM Linebacker upon his return. Reavis said he has talked with Mace and Defensive Backs Coach Josh Bell about the upcoming year.

“I love the energy that they’re bringing, and I know we’re going to go out there and play some good ball.”

The Roughriders’ coaching staff was announced on Monday. There are a lot of former players who have found recent success in the Canadian game, including Linebackers Coach J.C. Sherritt. Reavis says players can relate with younger coaches.

“When you look at the NFL, you got coaches like DeMeco Ryans and (Dan) Campbell with the Lions, you have former players become coaches, they can relate to the players they can get their point across. When you can get guys who believe in you, then they’ll run through a wall for you, it doesn’t get better than that.”

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