WINNIPEG — When Jackson Jeffcoat had a day with the Grey Cup, he followed the championship tradition of eating something out of the trophy.
The newly re-signed Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end took the cup to an Austin, Texas restaurant this week with family and friends and put a local snack in it.
“I ate a bowl of queso (cheese dip) and chips out of there, which was cool," Jeffcoat told reporters Saturday in a conference call. "It’s kind of a Tex-Mex thing."
Jeffcoat and fellow defensive-line bookend Willie Jefferson both recently signed one-year extensions with the Bombers. The team announced the moves Friday.
Blue Bombers senior director of public and player relations Darren Cameron had taken the cup and unsigned contracts to Austin, where both players live, so they could each spend time with the trophy.
“It meant a lot,” Jeffcoat said. “It’s a special experience because I haven’t seen anybody bring the Grey Cup down to the States.
“I know it has been here maybe less than a handful of times, but it’s special to take my Winnipeg life, my life in Canada, and share it with Texas, share it with the University of Texas, share it with Austin.”
The Bombers won the trophy for a second straight season last month after a 33-25 overtime victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Winnipeg also defeated the Ticats 33-12 in the 2019 Grey Cup.
The 2020 season was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bombers went 11-3 last year in the shortened 14-game regular season.
Like other CFL clubs, Winnipeg has dozens of pending free agents. Jeffcoat, 31, said he thought “hard” about hitting the open market on Feb. 8.
“I thought I actually was going to go to free agency,” he said. “But after about a week of negotiations, we came to a good agreement.
“I felt like Winnipeg really showed that they cared about me and wanted me to be in Winnipeg. I think that’s more important than any amount of money that I could get if I went to free agency and went to another team.”
The six-foot-three 245-pound Dallas native would certainly have been pursued after his dominant season.
Jeffcoat had a team-leading and career-best nine sacks. He also forced a league-best four fumbles and added 26 tackles to earn his first CFL all-star nod in his fourth season with the Bombers.
In 52 regular-season games, he has recorded 26 sacks and 106 tackles.
“We’ve had a special two years with the two Grey Cups and I look forward to having another one,” he said.
The Bombers have now signed three of their four starting defensive linemen after Jake Thomas also inked a one-year deal last week. The final piece of the foursome is Steven Richardson, who’s nicknamed “Stove” for his powerful five-foot-11 304-pound frame.
Jeffcoat said he and Richardson often talk.
"He knows that we want him back,” Jeffcoat said. “He knows that we love him. He knows that we’ve had fun with him, so we'll just see what he decides. Shoot, I'm happy for him and proud of him.
"Regardless of what he does, it doesn't matter to me. I just want him to be happy.”
Jeffcoat has found happiness with the Bombers after he stopped wondering why he wasn’t in the NFL, a question he still gets asked about from time to time.
“The way I was able to get content or be comfortable with the situation in Canada and playing in Winnipeg is I stopped trying to compare,” Jeffcoat said. “I know people say this all the time and it's true - comparison is the thief of joy.
"And so I'm not trying to compare myself anymore with other people. It’s always just me against me.”
His father, Jim Jeffcoat, was a defensive lineman in the NFL. He won the Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys in 1993 and ’94.
The younger Jeffcoat went to the University of Texas, where he took the Grey Cup to show his old coaches.
He was an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. He then appeared in nine games with Washington during the 2014 and '15 seasons and was with the Cleveland Browns in 2016 but didn’t play.
Some of Winnipeg’s pending free agents include quarterback Zach Collaros - last season’s CFL most outstanding player - and top defensive player Adam Bighill.
“I didn't take the whole house,” Jeffcoat said with a laugh about his new contract. “I think there's enough left for some guys to come back. I think there will be other signings and key guys back.
“And every year, things change. Guys move on, guys go to different places. It's just how it is. I told people before that this is a new year, a new team. So it's not about winning the Grey Cup again, it's about winning the Grey Cup for the first time as this group.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2022.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press