Riders star relieved to learn family survived Harvey’s wrath
Football is a welcome diversion from what’s happening in Willie Jefferson’s home state of Texas.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive end lives in Houston during the off-season and grew up in Beaumont, 140 kilometres east of Houston. Catastrophic floods brought on by hurricane Harvey have ravaged most of southeast Texas, including Houston and Beaumont.
“Just like anybody else, when hard times fall upon you or your family members, you have to have something to lean on,” Jefferson said. “I lean on my teammates and the game of football to take a little bit of stress off of me.”
Jefferson said after Wednesday’s practice at the University of Regina that his family members were safe. That doesn’t mean he’s not worried about them.
“It hurts me to my heart,” Jefferson said. “Me not being there and not being able to comfort my mom, my girl, my family, and comfort my nieces and nephews, it puts me at a real standstill.”
Jefferson said his parents were still in Beaumont as of Wednesday. Jefferson added there was some water in the front and backyards, but the water hadn’t made its way into the house.
“I’m worried, but this isn’t the first time that we’ve had to go through something like this . ... Knowing that my dad and my brother are safe and my mom is in good hands and my family is being taken care of and in a good spot, takes a little bit off me.”
The Riders are doing what they can to help ease some of Jefferson’s worries about his family.
“It’s sad to see and I couldn’t imagine being like Willie and being away from your family and your loved ones and knowing something like that was going on,” Riders quarterback Kevin Glenn said. “It would be tough to be up here, knowing something like that is going on back home.
“Still, you try to help your teammates. You have to be in constant communication with your family just making sure that they’re OK. There isn’t anything you can do by leaving and going down there, especially if you’re in a safe place.”
Riders receiver Duron Carter grew up in Florida, where he experienced a number of hurricanes and tropical storms. He’s learned through those weather events what friends and teammates require in challenging times.
“All we can do is just be there,” Carter said. “We’re playing football and it’s supposed to be a man’s game, but you have to be more of a friend and be there for him . ... As a team we have to come together and show our support for one of our best players.”
Jefferson has posted links to the Houston Flood Relief Fund on his Twitter (@Stmn_Willie_Bmn) and Instagram (@kill_will1517) accounts. People are also being encouraged to donate funds through the Red Cross.
Chris Jones, the Riders’ head coach and GM, said he talked to the players on Wednesday about what was taking place in Texas.
“I told them if they have direct family members who are in need, to contact me or see me,” Jones said.
I’m worried, but this isn’t the first time that we’ve had to go through something like this.