Jonathan Tremblay and Patrick Boyle
Football is a game of change. The names on the back of those green and white jerseys vary from season to season. It's the job of Craig Smith, Director of Player Personnel and Jeremy O’Day, Assistant General Manager to find those names and ensure they keep producing.
Smith racks up his fair share of air miles in a year. From the bowl games in January to the NCAA evaluation camps in March, then to NFL training camps in August and CIS games in the fall, he spends most of the year on the road. But, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “It's the best job in the world,'' says Smith. “I get to travel through Canada and the [United] States and I get to network a ton”. That being said, it's certainly not the easiest job in the world. There is always the pressure of finding the next best and most effective player to perform at Mosaic Stadium.
O’Day says they see dozens of training sessions and games along with a pile of game films, looking for trends and trying to find what another recruiter may have missed: a diamond in the wheat field rough that could truly shine for the Roughriders.
Selling the CFL is a different matter entirely. Smith and O’Day both agree that they want players who love football. ''When we decide to approach someone, football is our selling point. You know what they say, in football, you can't sit out a season,'' says O’Day. Smith adds that ''We get the guys who want to play football, who love the game''.
O’Day admits that some players can be attracted to the CFL and Saskatchewan by seeing it as a stepping stone to the NFL but he has no doubt that the majority of the guys who strap on the helmet for the Riders are here because they want to hoist the Grey Cup at the end of the year.
At first, some American players have a bit of hesitation when they hear Saskatchewan and -30 C. But, in the end they come here and it’s not that different. Recently, Smith brought a player to see our sea of wheat fields and combines just to hear the recruit say ''hey, it's not that different up here!''
Smith and O’Day are not only the Riders ambassadors, traveling across North America, going on goodwill missions to hopefully bring back our next star linebacker or running back; they are also ambassadors of Canada and Saskatchewan, funneling new talent to the Rider Nation one football game at a time.