‘The sky is the limit’: Roughriders’ receiver Samual Emilis hoping for encore performance in 2024

Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Samuel Emilus (19) runs the ball during first half CFL action at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday, October 21, 2023 in Regina. PHOTO BY KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post

Taylor Shire

Regina Leader-Post

Samuel Emilus believes there’s more in store for 2024.

After eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in just his second Canadian Football League season last year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver is expecting bigger and better things from himself — and his team — this season.

“I feel like last year was just a little preview of what I can do,” said Emilus, who finished eighth in the CFL with 1,097 receiving yards. “I feel like I can help the team more next year on and off the field.

“Just keep on grinding and obviously the end goal is to win so as long as we can do that, I feel like it’s going to be progress for me individually and for the team.”

And those goals aren’t just for this season but beyond as well, after Emilus signed a one-year contract extension this week to remain in Saskatchewan through the 2025 season.

The Montreal product will be entering his third season with the Green and White this year after being drafted by the club in the first round, seventh overall in the 2022 CFL Draft.

“To really keep it simple, that’s where I wanted to be,” said the 6-foot-1, 200-pound receiver. “The team took a chance on me and drafted me early in 2022 and I just felt like it was the right decision to be here long-term.”

After his breakout season in 2023 — which included 70 catches and six touchdowns while playing all 18 regular season games — Emilus earned some looks south of the border this off-season as five National Football League teams brought him in for workouts.

He worked out for the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers but none of them materialized into an NFL contract.

“Just going through the process of working out for NFL teams and seeing where I could fit or where they see me fit,” said Emilus. “In general all the feedback was they liked what they’d seen on film.

“But obviously they decided to go in another direction, which is fine because at the end of the day, I was in a good position with the Riders anyways.”

After seeing limited action in his rookie season in 2022 — where he had 10 catches for 165 yards — Emilus earned a starting spot during training camp in 2023 as fellow Canadian receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker was recovering from off-season hip surgery.

“Somebody had to fill his shoes and I was the one they called upon,” said Emilus. “I was ready.

“You never know when your time will come and when your name is called, you’ve just got to be ready.

“Going into training camp, I feel like I was more involved in the offence and obviously that helped with my confidence.”

Emilus — who was named Saskatchewan’s Most Outstanding Canadian — became he fifth Canadian receiver in team history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark with Ray Elgaard, Jeff Fairholm, Chris Getzlaf and Andy Fantuz being the others. This year, he is once again part of a strong group of Canadian receivers which also features a healthy Schaffer-Baker, Brayden Lenius and Mitch Picton.

With the talent they have, Saskatchewan could consider starting three Canadians at the position this season like they did for the final three games of 2023, with Americans Shawn Bane Jr. and Jerreth Sterns occupying the other two starting spots.

But for Emilus, he just wants the best players to play regardless of their passports.

“With the names we’ve got, we’ve got talent at the receiving position,” said Emilus. “It’s a competition and like I always say, we don’t really see it as a Canadian receiver type of thing versus an American receiver type of thing, we just put our head down and work.”

Whoever is catching the passes in 2024, Emilus is already excited for what’s to come from the team, which features an entirely new coaching staff led by head coach Corey Mace and offensive coordinator Marc Mueller.

“There’s a good energy coming into the season with a new coaching staff,” said Emilus. “And I feel like the sky is the limit for us.

“We’re excited and I think it’s going to be an explosive playbook and we’re just ready to get rolling.”