Joining me today is wide receiver Jake Weineke of the Montreal Alouettes. Jake has played for Montreal during the 2019, and 2021 seasons. He has collected 97 receptions, 1,467 yards, and 19 touchdowns in just two seasons on the field, and found himself leading the league in touchdown receptions in the 2021 season. Weineke despite his performance opted to take the 2020 season off, and stay under contract with Montreal, and now following the 2021 season that decision paid off in the form of an offseason extension with Montreal prior to Jake hitting the open market.
At what age did you begin playing football, and who or what influenced you to play?
“I think my first time playing organized football was third grade. I just always wanted to, I grew up in Minnesota, so I was always watching the Vikings, watching Randy Moss, was a big inspiration. But yeah ever since I can really remember?”
Have you always played wide receiver or did you play other positions when you were younger?
“I was a running back growing up, then in high school I started playing receiver. I loved that, and I’ve been playing it ever since.”
What drives you to push yourself to continue to improve year in and year out?
“Just trying to get better, trying to really glorify god in all that I do, and use the gifts he gave me to always bring him glory and always be the best that I can be. I always have a lot of goals and desires for myself. I just enjoy the process, I enjoy getting better, I enjoy training, I enjoy working out, and obviously I enjoy playing football too. Just having a lot of fun seeing growth every single year, and always trying to improve and get better.”
During your high school career I read that you actually were a three sport athlete, playing football, basketball, and running track. How do you think this background playing multiple sports help or hurt you as a young athlete?
“I think it helped me tremendously. Even to this day I try and play as many sports as I can. I think it helps so much with football, and it is able to corelate. Especially playing basketball, and track. Being able to run, jump, cut, and get past the defender. All these different things corelate to the football field. Then with track, getting faster, for the football field. That’s what I always tell young athletes, play as many sports as you can. It’s going to help in the sport that you choose, because you’re going to do a variety of movements. That way you’re not always doing the same types of movements. I think if you only play football year round, you might get burnt out, but when you’re playing a whole bunch of different sports, it’s like okay now it’s football season, now it’s basketball season, now it’s track season. You’re just always enjoying the fresh start of a new season.”
Before even graduating high school, you suffered through some injuries. Walk me through how that affected you and what you did to stay motivated at such a young age.
“Yeah man, I didn’t get to play much my junior season, I had a couple different injuries. I think just that’s a big year to try and get some recruiting, and try and get some film. I think I just knew going into my senior year, I wanted to enjoy it, that every moment is not promised. I didn’t want to take it for granted, and also realized I needed to take advantage of this opportunity to be on the field. To do the best I can to try and get recruited. I had to work real hard, and learn how to take care of my body, through little nicks during college, and even now during my pro career. Taking this time to learn and grow, now I feel like I’m more healthy than I’ve ever been. But it’s also because I take more time, and I’ve learned how to take care of my body. I’ve learned how to prevent that, and how to stay in shape and stay injury free.”
Following your injuries as a junior you went on to produce at a high level as a senior. Cementing your status as a college level player. You were able to catch 68 passes and put up 1,330 yards and 13 touchdowns. How did it feel to finally break out as a receiver prior to picking your college of choice the following season?
“It felt good, it’s funny because it’s something like we know or we think that, we can perform at a certain level. But when you don’t have the opportunity or you just don’t for whatever the reason may be. Sometimes it can be frustrating, then you start doubting like man can I really do this? Then when you actually are able to do it, it’s almost like you even prove it to yourself like, I knew I could do that. I guess it’s kind of what I expected, but it was also kind of a relief. I actually got to play, and produce, and have a good season as well.”
After joining the South Dakota State Jackrabbits you would play alongside future NFL player Dallas Goedert who originally joined the team as a walk on, for 5 seasons together. How close are you with Dallas, and do you guys keep in touch to this day?
“Yes we still keep in touch, we came in together as freshmen. That’s my boy, such a great dude, great athlete, great player, and a great dude. Our lockers were actually right next to each other in college, so we got to spend a lot of time with each other. It’s so fun to watch him now on Sundays, just doing his thing, and every week he is doing is thing, having big catches. He’s one of the best tight ends in the league. But I mean I’ve been seeing this all the way through college, in practice, in games, even on when we would play basketball together. He’s a just a great athlete, great guy, works hard. It’s amazing to see what he’s doing on the field, it’s fun to watch. I always enjoy watching the Eagles”
You guys actually spent all 5 years together right?
“Yeah, we came in together, redshirted together, then played all four years together.”
During your time at South Dakota State, you showed that you have a knack for finding the endzone. In fact in 4 seasons as a starter you scored over 11 tds in each season and scored 16 tds in 3 separate seasons. Do you believe your college days were just foreshadowing what you were capable of at the professional level all along?
“I mean Yeah. I feel like I always want to get better every single new year. I think I have been able to do that. I mean stats don’t always tell it all. They can be used to see different things, while I am grateful for that, I think some of the biggest things I try to do is just improve every single year. I just try to continue to get better and better. Yeah it was definitely fun to find the endzone a lot in college, and definitely fun to do the same thing in the CFL”
Following a 5 year career, that saw you start for four years, you totaled 288 receptions for 5,157 yards, and 59 touchdowns in just 53 games. During that time you also carried the ball 3 times for 135 yards and 1 touchdown averaging nearly 18 yards per reception, and 45 yards per carry. To me this demonstrates more big play ability than a 40 yard dash ever could. Following your performance in the 40 yard dash however, you went undrafted. Do you believe the NFL puts too much stock in combine numbers, and not enough stock in on field production?
“I don’t know. I think they have that process in everything, and obviously it’s been working. They know how to find different things, and I think as far as my stock I think there were a lot of things that went into it. I mean before my senior year, I was probably thinking I was going to be drafted in the later rounds, didn’t have a great senior year, then kind of fell out of it, didn’t do great at the combine then kind of fell out of it too. I think there’s a lot of things that factored into it, I guess it’s hard for me to say exactly.”
As mentioned before you were invited to the NFL combine, where you would ultimately put up numbers that were respectable but didn’t necessarily blow teams out of the water. It’s almost as if teams were more concerned with combine numbers than performance on the field. Do you think you may have been better off not attending the combine at all and simply working out at a pro day or do you believe the outcome would have been the same? I also noticed you were listed at 221 lbs back then, but seem to only be listed around 210 lbs on CFL sites. Did you shed this weight to aid you in the speed category?
“Yeah definitely. Even during college I was 210-215 lbs, but when I was training for the combine I put on a little bit of weight. I was like 220-225 lbs. I was just too big, I’m probably about 210 now, and I feel good at this weight. I feel faster, more athletic, and I’m not getting tired. It’s definitely a weight I like and I’ve played most of my career at.
Following the 2018 NFL draft you found yourself getting calls from the Vikings prior to the end of the draft, and they had said they wanted to sign you as a UDFA, if you got to that point. I read somewhere at that point you almost began rooting against yourself to be drafted?
“Well, I guess part of that is true. With like 5 picks left, Coach Hazel, the receivers coach called me. Hey if you don’t get picked in these last 5 picks, we would like to have you. I think at that point I was, like yeah okay that would be awesome. To be at home in Minnesota, so then I guess for the last 5 picks I was almost indifferent. Obviously if you get drafted it’s amazing, but I was happy to be home in Minnesota.”
What made you decide Minnesota was the best place for you, or was it simply because it’s your home?
“I think a lot of reasons. Obviously it was my favorite team growing up, the organization was familiar, it was close to home. But also it was a team that interested me, and I felt like I could fit there in.”
I see a ton of similarities between you and Vikings receiver Adam Thielen, whether it be your background as a UDFA, signing with Minnesota afterward, your height, and ability to snatch jump balls etc etc. Being 5 years behind Thielen did you watch him at any level and try to model your game after his or is it just a coincidence that you two have similar strengths?
“I love watching Thielen. I’ve been watching him for years, then getting to know him during my time with the Vikings. I think he is a great man, a really amazing man. A guy I just really enjoyed being with him, learning from him, and watching him in practice, as well as the other guys. Diggs, Treadwell, those guys were amazing. So I had a lot of fun learning from Thielen, and just trying to get a little better everyday.”
After joining Minnesota you were made to compete with a deep roster at the time. They had starters Thielen and Diggs at the top of the depth chart with former first round pick Laquan Treadwell, Aldrick Robinson, Brandon Zylstra, Chad Beebe, and Stacy Coley were ahead of you on the depth chart at the time. Do you believe you earned a job out of camp following your performance with the Vikings, or was it a situation where you weren’t sure what would happen with the roster built the way it was?
“I definitely wasn’t sure coming out. I was hoping to try and make the practice squad, but I knew it was going to be tough to make the 53 with the roster we had, and the receivers we had.”
After being let go by the Vikings in 2018, you briefly signed with the Salt Lake Stallions who held your negotiation rights in the Alliance of American Football, due to the way they divided up territories for free agency. You would play under offensive mind, Dennis Erickson, how long were you with the Stallions?
“I signed with them, shortly after that I was released. Then I went to a minicamp, got released from them. Then just after that Montreal called.”
Ultimately the Stallions decided not to retain you for the 2019 season, which actually led you to be signed by Montreal. After joining the Alouettes it didn’t take long for you to build a role on the team, and by week 10 of your first season with the team you began seeing an increase in targets. Was there a moment when it became clear to you that the Alouettes coaching staff had the intentions to start feeding you the ball more?
“I think it’s something that gradually happens over time I guess. You just have to strive to be consistent, and just kind of show them that you know what you’re doing, and that you’re able to get open. I mean there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it. I think the biggest thing is showing the coaches that you’re going to be in the right spot, and you’re going to make the play.”
After 18 games in your first season with the team you had produced 43 receptions on 67 targets for 605 yards, but really demonstrated, again, your knack for being a redzone threat when you hauled in 8 td passes. Is there an art to this skillset or is this simply something that comes naturally being 6’4 with a 32 inch vertical leap?
“It’s a little bit of both. I think on every play you have to be ready for the ball, you have to run the best route you can, and strive to get open and make the catch. But I think in everybody’s mind it’s like okay, once you get in the redzone, we have to score. It’s such a big difference to get a touchdown instead of a field goal. So I think we all realize that, I think we’re all trying to run the best route we can, and get open. Then go up and get the pass when it’s thrown our way. I definitely enjoy it, my eyes light up when I get in the redzone. I just try to come down with it when it’s thrown my way.”
After your first season in Montreal where was your mindset? Were you again focused on making it to the NFL, or were you beginning to see a future with the CFL at this point?
“I think a little bit of both. I think I’ve always had dreams of playing in the NFL. But the longer I have been a part of the CFL, the more I’ve fallen in love with the game. The more I’ve grown to love and appreciate it more and more. The more time I’ve spent watching and being a part of it.”
I’ve heard a couple players mention the CFL game is a bit faster from their perspective would you agree with this statement?
“Yeah definitely. There’s a lot of different strategies. Whether it’s the shorter play clock, only 3 downs, you could be on the sideline, all of a sudden the defense gets a couple stops, and you’re back up. Stuff happens really quick, it’s definitely a different game with some different strategies because of that.”
Headed into the 2020 season there was so much uncertainty thanks to the Covid 19 virus that swept the world following its discovery in late 2019. Did you ever think you would see a league like the CFL who had been around at that point for over 40 years cancel a full season?
“That was crazy, I didn’t think that was going to be nothing. Especially because we saw the NFL still have a season. That was so tough. I’m just glad we were able to come back and have a season last year”
I’m so happy the CFL was able to rebound from that. When you found out the league was cancelling the season what was your immediate thought process, and how did you handle the news?
“For a long time it just kept getting postponed, and postponed. Then when we finally, I think it was like the end of August, that we heard the season was finally cancelled, then I was just like alright. There was a window people could opt out and go the NFL, so I talked to my agent just to kind of see. So I stayed in the contract and decided I had to find something to do. That’s when I used my teaching degree, and got into teaching. Had a lot of fun with that, also helped out with the football team a little bit.”
I read somewhere that you enjoyed your experience teaching, and that you were hoping to return following the 2021 season. Did you end up returning to teach/coach at the high school level?
“Yeah so during this offseason, I was going to that same high school I was at last year, as well as going to my old high school that’s in the same district. It’s been fun to be around, and see kids that I know, families that I know and teachers that I know. Build those relationships with the kids, pour into them and love on them. “
How did your family feel about you utilizing your teaching degree mid-football career?
“My wife was definitely for it. Pretty much as soon as we found out the season was cancelled we were like okay what are we going to do? I think that was the big thing. Me wife was like ‘You have to go find a full time job.’ Then a couple days after the season ended, I saw one of my former teachers at the grocery store, and she told me about an opening at Park Center, the school I was at. Ended up being a substitute job where I would come everyday and substitute for whatever teacher was gone that day. I had a lot of fun with that. I also went in once or twice a week to help out with receivers, and I would actually put my cleats on and go run routes with them. Trying to teach them everything I know. Then I would go to the games too and try and be an extra set of eyes to help out. The biggest thing I was doing was building relationships with those kids. It was really fun, now I get to see a lot of them going to college, and finding some success.”
Finally the 2020 season had ended, and you returned to Montreal as arguably their top redzone threat. In 2021 you put your full skillset on display. This time you saw a dramatic increase in targets with 99 passes thrown your way, and you were able to snare 62 of them which helped you maintain a catch rate of over 62%. You also went on to lead the league in touchdown receptions with 11. How did the coaching staff adjust the way they had used you in the 2019 season to help you achieve these lofty statistics?
“We just had an amazing group of receivers, and an amazing offense really. From quarterback, to running back to receiver, all those guys, we have such an amazing offense. We have the best offense, and we still have the capability to be so much better. That’s the thing about the CFL too, you never know if you’re going to get the ball, you just have to keep on running your routes, and keep doing what you have to do, that way when the read comes your way you’re ready. I think I just try and do that on every play, so when it does come my way I’m ready to make the play.”
How did you feel about leading the league in TD receptions in 2021? Was this the validation you were looking for proving you can play at the professional level, or do you still feel there is a lot more for you prove?
“I definitely have a lot more to prove. It was exciting, it was cool, even to see my coaches and teammates just to see how excited they were for me as well. But ultimately, I feel like I have a lot to improve on, a lot to do to get better, so I’m just excited for that.”
Along the way I came across some episodes of a podcast you attended run by your cousin called Intentional Discipleship, where you help host a series called Cold Brews, and Catholic Truths. Is this podcast still around today? How has your faith helped you get where you are today?
“Yes that’s my cousin. Shout out to him and his podcast, he is an amazing man of god. It was a blessing to be able to be on that podcast with him and talk. We are the same age, same grade, and everything so we actually grew up together. Doing everything together, playing football together. Throughout college we both really started growing our faith , and started walking with Jesus. It was so fun how our conversations transformed. Now to see that he has an amazing podcast going, he has a YouTube Channel, and works for the Arch Diesys of Indianapolis. Yeah I mean it was just an honor for me to be on with him, talking about discipleship, what that looks like, and what that means. Jesus is the reason I do everything, he’s the reason I play football. Just to see what god has done in our locker room, and in my life, and in the lives of my teammates, as well as watching him move throughout the league it’s been pretty cool. I hope to return to the podcast in the future, if he asks me back on that is.”
Well Jake you are fresh off of a 2 season stretch that saw you play in 32 games, catching 97 passes for 1,467 yards and 19 touchdowns, stats that most receivers only dream of achieving in such a short time at the professional level. What goals have you set for yourself in year 3 of your CFL career with Montreal?
“I got a lot of goals, a lot of big goals, probably won’t say them specifically. But I definitely have some big goals, starting with getting better everyday. That’s a big goal, I think throughout the offseason, trying to put the work in everyday just to get better. It goes even on and off the field too. I’m trying to be a better player, better man of god, better father, better husband, it applies to everything in life. Then I try and apply it to my work outs, just trying to get better everyday, and enjoy everyday.”
Heading into this offseason you were set to hit free agency prior to resigning with Montreal. Also this offseason another American Spring League was launched, the USFL. What made you ultimately decide to return to Montreal for your third season on the field and fourth total?
“Yeah, I never really even talked to or even fully thought about it I guess. I know I have some friends that are now playing in it, but I just love the CFL. It’s a great league, it’s been around for a long time. I’m just happy to be back with the CFL.”
Absolutely, when you’ve built what you’ve been able to in just two seasons, I don’t think you leave that unless it’s for the NFL. It definitely makes sense to continue building on your progress in Montreal going forward rather than taking a chance on a new league. Jake before I let you go I want to leave you with one last question. You are now 27 years old, and will be 28 following the season. At this point would you still pursue NFL opportunities if they were to arise, or are you planning on remaining with the CFL long term at this point?
“I think I would love to pursue NFL opportunities if they arise, and if not I want to play in the CFL as long as I can. I’ve mentioned before I love the league, I’ve loved growing, and learning and just being a part of the CFL. I love it.”
Jake thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come speak to me. I honestly can’t tell you how much it means to me that you would reach out to speak to me. I look forward to you posting another dominant season with Montreal, and I hope we can get together again in the future so I can have you on my YouTube channel, Sam Shady Sports. Once again I appreciate you spending the time, and best of luck in 2022 with Montreal.
That was Jake Wieneke, wide receiver for the Montreal Alouettes. Keep an eye out for more CFL player interviews coming in the future. Next up is wide receiver Seantavius Jones of the Ottawa Redblacks!
Written by @SamShadySports, please check out my other content and sponsors at the links below. I produce content involving most teams, and several different leagues so stay tuned for the latest news about your team. Also I have teamed with Seat Geek to produce a $20 discount code. If you use the code SamShady at check out you will receive $20 off your next Purchase. Also Check out my other interviews with former CFL players Cam Echols-Luper, and check out my live interview with Famus Hasty on Monday evening in the links below.
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