As the Riders defence struggled through yet another game on Saturday in Calgary, one bright spot emerged in defensive back Paul Woldu.
Early in the game, Keenan MacDougall suffered another shoulder injury, receiver Chris Getzlaf injured his foot and defensive lineman Dylan Ainsworth also suffered an unknown injury. The crunch was on to find Canadians who could play the rest of the game.
Out came Woldu to play safety, a position he hasn’t really played in the CFL.
“That’s why we’re out here, right? You’re out here to be the best that you can be and to prove, not only to yourself, but to your teammates, coaches and fans that you belong out here,” said Woldu.
“I felt pretty good once I got comfortable in the second half there.”
Woldu showed something that most Rider defensive backs haven’t shown much this year: good form when making a tackle.
Woldu’s strong technical play and overall effort were noticeable when he successful tackled Stampeders running back Jerome Messam a few times when Messam has 75 pounds on Woldu.
“When you’re a guy my size, everybody has a lot on you. You’re always tackling guys that are bigger than you. You just have to be a little more technically sound,” said Woldu.
“Your technique has to be there because he’s not only a guy who’s strong and big but he’s athletic.”
Some of Woldu’s long-time teammates weren’t surprised to see him play as well as he did.
“It’s very impressive. It’s not surprising because we know what Paul can do. It’s good for him,” said linebacker Tyron Brackenridge.
Without knowing what the status of the injured Canadian is going into this weekend’s final game in Montreal, there’s a chance that Woldu could finish his season as a starter on defence.
It could be an unthinkable end to Woldu’s season, if you remember how it began. After training camp, Woldu was one of the team’s final cuts. For the first time since his CFL career began, Woldu was sitting on the outside looking in.
Woldu remained hopeful that his career would resume at some point and it did. Because of an earlier rash of injuries to Canadians, the Riders came calling and offered Woldu a spot on the practice roster. Woldu accepted and that led to him eventually returning to the field in his usual special teams role and now the chance to start.
“It’s crazy; it’s a world of difference. It just goes to show how there’s so many highs and lows in the game of football,” he said.
“You just got to really be able to roll with the punches and put your best foot forward when you have the opportunity.”