REGINA — Aerospace design and biotechnical development were just two of the career fields awaiting Jake Doughty upon his graduation from Utah State University.
A six-figure salary at one of the world’s top businesses and a whole lot of job security could have been his thanks to his mechanical engineering degree.
Instead, Doughty chose football. Three games into his professional career, the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ rookie middle linebacker has been sifting through all sorts of negative comments on social media and talk of his head coach deserving to get fired thanks to the team’s winless start to the 2015 CFL season.
Not exactly his dream job. Or is it?
“This has been a dream of mine, a goal of mine ever since I was a kid,” said Doughty, whose Riders (0-3) will host the B.C. Lions (1-1) Friday at Mosaic Stadium.
“I’m trying to make the most of this opportunity. Living my life to the fullest right now.”
Doughty was thrust into the starting lineup when veteran Shea Emry suffered a neck injury in Week 1 of the regular season. Emry, a two-time Grey Cup champ and former CFL all-star, is one of 11 Riders on the six-game injured list.
In Week 2, his first professional start, the six-foot, 230-pound Doughty led the Riders with seven tackles and one interception in a home-field loss to the Toronto Argonauts. Doughty’s second start came in Week 3 and saw him register seven tackles in a loss to the Lions in Vancouver.
“I think I have been alright,” he said of his performances. “Every week you have something to improve on. If you’re ever satisfied completely then you should just stop playing. I know I need to keep improving so I can do more to help this team and get this team winning.”
Doughty’s 148 tackles in his senior season at Utah State ranked him second in the nation in the Football Bowl Subdivision and fourth all-time in the Mountain West Conference. Undoubtedly, he has a nose for the football and the instincts to succeed at the position. The fact that he’s among the intellectually elite doesn’t hurt him, either, when it comes to the game.
“He’s everything you want in a middle linebacker,” said linebackers coach Tyrone Pettaway.
“You have to be smart to play this position. You have to study the game and be a student. It’s one thing to have a whole bunch of athletic ability and use your speed and athleticism to get out of trouble. But he’s very adept to know what’s going on, so he doesn’t find himself in too many bad spots.”
The Riders’ defensive unit has surrendered fourth-quarter leads in consecutive weeks, with each resulting in an overtime loss.
The defence, and head coach Corey Chamblin’s decision making has been the subject of much criticism because of it. In a place like Regina, Doughty said it’s hard to get away from the negative talk.
“You try to tune out the critics,” he said.
“But it’s a realistic worry and we just have to step up to this challenge and say enough is enough. It’s time to turn this around and do a better job.”
It’s not likely Doughty will experience a rough patch when his football career comes to a close. He plans to pursue his master’s degree in business upon retirement.
“With those two degrees, I should be able to find something enjoyable to do,” he said. “Academics were a big part of life. The unfortunate part of this business is that it doesn’t last forever. There’s a very small window of where you can be a professional athlete.
“Growing up, I always knew there was going to be life after football and you have to be prepared for when that time comes. I was fortunate enough to be pretty decent at math, so I pursued my degree and worked hard to get it.”
Notes — The Riders announced on Wednesday that defensive back Weldon Brown suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the team’s loss to the Lions in Week 3 and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Brown, along with Emry, cornerback Marshay Green, quarterback Darian Durant and slotback Ryan Smith are five key starters missing from the Riders’ lineup.