People want to know how I came to be a Winnipeg Blue Bomber.
It all came together extremely fast and there are a few reasons I’m heading there, with timing and the salary-cap constraints being two of the biggest.
But before we get to all that, I’d like to start with how Coach O’Shea and I built a relationship based on mutual respect.
Back in my rookie year in 2011, I was playing on special teams in B.C. and after a game, he came up to me, shook my hand and told me he had watched me on film throughout the season. And then he said, ‘I really respect how you play the game. I think you’re a great football player.’
I was just a rookie trying to show I could dominate and start my own legacy in the CFL and here’s a guy from the opposing team that comes up and tells me that. Our relationship started right then and there. As my career progressed over the course of my years in BC, every time we played each other we always made time to say hello.
Just the other night, I spoke to him for a good 35 minutes on the phone. We had a great conversation catching up, and you could still feel the level of respect we have for each other – even though we haven’t spoken in over a year.
BC Lions’ Adam Bighill looks o from the sidelines during the first half of CFL action in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, September 9, 2016. Lions won 38-27. (CFL PHOTO Ð Chad Hipolito)
That respect was there from Day 1, and it made it an easy decision for me to want to play for a guy like Mike O’Shea because we’ve understood each other for a long time now. It’s kind of a unique story of how that started. He’s a straight-up guy.
But back to how I ended up a Bomber…
After I got released from New Orleans, I didn’t know where football was going to take me at first, especially because of the timing. I knew CFL camps hadn’t started yet, but teams had filled their rosters and spent their salary caps already looking to win a Grey Cup. I knew finding a home wasn’t going to be impossible, but it was going to be tougher than normal.
I also wanted to see what else the NFL had to offer and there was a process in terms of figuring out what I wanted to do. I ended up turning down an offer from NFL. I just felt like if they weren’t willing to give a signing bonus and have it be meaningful, then it wasn’t a real sign of commitment.
It came to a point where it was, ‘do I really want to keep trying to fight the thinking of Is he tall enough for our defence, even though he’s a great player?’ At the end of the day I have proven I can play and dominate in the NFL, but I decided I didn’t want to get lost in what NFL teams ‘thought’ of me, since it’s so far out of my control.
That’s when I decided to see what the CFL had to offer, and I knew my window was getting smaller. Things escalated quickly in the last few days before I signed.
I did talk to Andrew Harris before I signed and I really appreciated his reaching out. We have a lot of great history as teammates and I definitely wanted his insight on his city. He just told me how much he enjoyed being in Winnipeg. Obviously, being back in his hometown was big for him, but he also talked about being in B.C. and then coming to Winnipeg and experiencing the culture there. He talked about playing for Coach O’Shea, the team unity, and just his experience in B.C. compared to what’s going on in Winnipeg. It was big for Andrew to reach out like that and for us to have that chat. He really stressed the team unity and the how great the locker-room full of great guys is.
Bighill #44 celebrate with teammates David Menard #78, and Craig Roh #93 during the second half of CFL action in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, June 25, 2016. (CFL PHOTO – Jimmy Jeong)
At the end of the day, it’s the best full roster that wins the Grey Cup, not your best 24.
It’s all the guys that enjoy spending time together, that stay after to watch film and then hang out. Those teams build bonds and trust and that’s why those relationships are so important, because you know you can rely on them when the time comes.
I also talked to Craig Roh in the last few days before I signed, he’s a good friend of mine. And I heard from Anthony Gaitor and Steven Clarke… they’re pretty excited.
Changing teams is very much like switching schools. B.C. is where I had been for a very long time. It was so great… I met my wife there, her family is there, we have a home there. I loved the Vancouver community and the fans were great out there. You get comfortable in a place where you have so many great relationships.
It will be different, but it’s not all that different than when I came down to New Orleans. You’ve got to meet everybody and get used to all the different things. It’s like a new adventure. It’s not going to be boring. It’s going to be interesting because I enjoy meeting new people.
Coming to a place like Winnipeg is going to be great. In the NFL, you’re just trying to make it and that’s a grind. No matter how proven my resume is, they see me as unproven down there.
But it’s great now to have that feeling where it’s ‘We want you. We want to win the Cup and we want you to be a part of it.’
I’m excited and I can’t wait to start the next chapter of my journey.