Quebec players in the NFL have never been legion. In defense, it is an even rarer commodity. The feat of Benjamin St-Juste, who managed to carve out a position as a starting cornerback in Washington at the dawn of his first season, is simply unheard of.
“To be starting as a rookie is extremely difficult. There are 53 players in the squad, so there is little room for error. What makes me proud is when I look at where I’m from. ”
“I’m a guy from Quebec, who was drafted 74th, who plays cornerback and who ends up as a starter. Let me take a look at who has done this in the past … no one! It’s still a big accomplishment ”, rejoiced St-Juste at the end of the line, overflowing with confidence and pride, during an interview with“ Le Journal ”.
And with good reason! After all, only four Quebec defensive players played in the NFL before St-Juste, defensive end Mehdi Abdesmad (Titans), linebackers Andy Mulumba (Packers) and Brian Forde (Saints) as well as defensive back Mark Montreuil (Chargers).
From the lot, Mulumba got a start in his first season, in 2013. Montreuil, who played as St-Juste in the tertiary sector, had only one start in his third and final year in the NFL, in 1997.
« There are many more young people who will be able to say that they would like to be like Benjamin St-Juste and I am able to give them an example and support. »
“I didn’t have that when I was young because there wasn’t really a defensive back or wide receiver who had broken into the NFL. It only took one and I’m glad it’s me, because it can give hope to the kids at home, ”said the tall 6’3 » cornerback.
A strong camp
Throughout the summer, St-Juste left its mark by evolving with the starters, facing the best opposing elements during the preparatory games.
The more time went by, the more it became clear that he would occupy a prominent role in the Washington team’s tertiary, alongside veterans William Jackson III and Kendall Fuller.
“I am very happy with my camp. I think it’s going to give me a lot of playing time. There are a lot of teams that play with three receivers and you need three cornerbacks more often. ”
“I had had a great mini-camp and good spring training. I knew I could recreate the same scenario. It was all about staying constant and that’s what I tried to do every day when I arrived prepared. It paid off in the long run, ”he explained.
Obviously, the former Spartans of Old Montreal and the University of Minnesota (after a transfer from Michigan), earned his stripes by making big games. Above all, he earned the respect of his peers by adapting on the spot to the rigors of the NFL.
“I have been able to gain the confidence of my coaches. If you don’t earn the trust of your coaches and teammates, they’ll wonder if you know your games, if you’re going to cost them a touchdown, and they won’t want to put you on the pitch. I was able to adapt quickly even though I am still developing. I haven’t made the same mistakes twice. ”
The importance of the present moment
Even if he will be entirely devoted to the colossal task that stands before him, Benjamin St-Juste intends to take the time to savor every moment he is about to experience in the NFL.
Often, athletes do not have the same rhetoric. Once in the big leagues, there is so much to accomplish that they hardly allow themselves to savor the moment, they claim.
The Montrealer knows full well that the league will not give him a gift and that he will have to continue to work hard on a daily basis. He doesn’t see a reason not to take a moment to realize what he is going through.
After all, since the Washington team finished first in their section last season, they will face several guns. On the menu, in particular, they will meet the Bills, Chiefs, Packers, Buccaneers and Seahawks.
“I always take the time to enjoy the moment. When I played a preseason game at Gillette Stadium, I thought about how many times I saw Tom Brady play there. I’m going to play against Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady … ”
“You always have to make sure you savor, because these are moments that pass quickly and that you will never be able to relive. You just have to find the balance between enjoying and staying focused on work, ”said St-Juste.
Even if he has always been confident in his means, we should especially not believe that St-Juste thinks he has succeeded. Like any good recruit, he recognizes that this first season brings its share of questions.
“There is so much uncertainty as a rookie in the NFL. How it will go? How are the matches? What are the fans like? What is the intensity of the matches? «
“I’m going to live a more intense schedule as well with 17 regular season games not counting the playoffs. I want to stay healthy, focused and maintain a disciplined schedule, ”insisted the one who has been identified in Washington media as one of the stars of the camp that just ended.