Riders star re­lieved to learn fam­ily sur­vived Har­vey’s wrath

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - MUR­RAY McCORMICK mm­c­cormick@post­media.com twit­ter.com/mur­raylp

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.

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