February 19, 2018

Craig Roh finds a fit in Winnipeg

His nickname – ‘Death Roh’ – is a clever play on his surname and the perfect persona for anybody who has made a living eating quarterbacks and devouring running backs along the line of scrimmage.

But chat with new Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end Craig Roh for even just a few minutes, and the wrestling-type aura that goes with the nickname drops almost instantly.

“My wife Chelsea calls me a huge cornball,” said Roh in a chat Friday with from Vancouver. “The ‘Death Roh’ persona is strictly from sacking quarterbacks. That’s really only who I’m ‘Death Roh’ to.

“My wife jokes, ‘You look intimidating… until you open your mouth and then you remove all doubt.’”

The Bombers added the amiable Roh, signing him to a two-year contract, on Friday – four days into Canadian Football League free agency. A 6-5, 265-pound product of the Michigan Wolverines who just turned 27, Roh spent the last three years with the B.C. Lions where he made 45 starts and registered 20 sacks, 64 tackles and one forced fumble.

“I’m very excited. It has been a little nerve wracking over the last few days for my wife and I because you don’t know where you’re going,” said Roh. “First and foremost, you’re just thinking about the security of your family. Secondly, you want to go to a place where they want you and where you think there’s a good fit.”

Roh and Ryan Rigmaiden, the new Bombers’ Director of College Scouting, became friends during their days together on the west coast. And it was Rigmaiden who helped seal the deal that Winnipeg would be a good fit for Roh both personally and professionally.

“He reached out initially and said, ‘Hey, we want you here. Let’s work out a deal. We’ve got a position for you and think you can function here really well,’” said Roh. “I just really trust his opinion and he knows what I can do as a football player.

“That’s important because they’re investing money in you and you’ve also got to understand whether it’s a fit organizationally. All the players talk with each other, too, about which organizations are good. Winnipeg seems like that, with good coaches, good people who really care about winning.”

Roh, like Chandler Fenner – another ex-Lion who signed here this week – brings a versatility to the Bombers defence. He played both tackle and end with the Lions – leading them with seven sacks last season – and with the Wolverines made 29 starts at end, 20 at outside linebacker, and two at defensive tackle.

Despite consistent sack totals with the Lions – he had six, seven and seven over his three years there – the vibe he got from the new Ed Hervey-led regime this offseason was lukewarm at best.

“It was interesting… B.C. just didn’t show that much interest in me,” he said. “It seemed like they were going in a little bit of a different direction. Ed came in and he’s got his plan with what he’s comfortable with… I don’t take it personally, there just wasn’t a whole lot of interest. I’m happy where I am now.

“In B.C. I was asked to do just about everything. I played defensive tackle and all the way out to the end to dropping into (pass) coverage. I can confidently say I’m one of the CFL’s most versatile players, but I will say my strongest position is at end.

“I can go inside and rush, go outside and rush. If I’m given the opportunity to pass rush, I think I’m pretty dang good.”