May 22, 2024

Quick Hits | Training Camp Day 11

Marquise Bridges chatting with Deatrick Nichols -- photos by Cameron Bartlett

Notes and quotes from Blue Bombers training camp on Wednesday…

The more a football training camp unfolds, the more a coaching staff learns about the assembled talent in front of them.

And this is what the Blue Bombers have discovered about Marquise Bridges, the former North Dakota State star who is coming on after 11 days: he’s not only a quick study, he’s got the kind of championship pedigree every organization covets.

Consider this nugget which positively glows on his football resumé: Bridges, 27, is on an amazing title run, having won back-to-back Indoor Football League championships with the Northern Arizona Wranglers (2022) and Bay Area Panthers (2023) and FOUR consecutive national championships at NDSU from 2017-21 as part of Bison teams that went 70-5 during his collegiate career.

So, let’s just the man’s got a healthy collection of championship jewelry.

“I keep my rings at my mom’s house,” Bridges told with a smile after practice on Wednesday. “I’ll save them for later for memorabilia and for now I just want to keep going and keep winning as much as I can and to be a part of something like this while being the best teammate I can be.”

Marquise Bridges

Bridges had NFL looks from the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers and has been scouted by the Blue Bombers since his college days and his appearance in the 2020 Hula Bowl. He was apparently on the verge of tears when Blue Bombers Assistant GM Ted Goveia offered him a contract in February. Here’s why: his road travelled includes an injury during his days with the Vikings and then doors closing on him before he landed in the IFL as a two-time college all-star trying to re-establish himself as a bona fide pro prospect.

“It’s one of those things where at one point I had to ask myself, ‘How did I get here?’,” he said. “Instead of asking the why or how it’s like, ‘What now?’ I’m not the only one, there’s so many players that play pro football and there’s only so many chances and so many slots. I had an unfortunate (groin) injury when I was with the Vikings and had to find a way to work my way back. There are so many players coming out of college every year, a fresh batch, and so you’ve got to get in where you fit in.

“Once I reached the IFL I was praying to get to here so it’s amazing to see God’s work — I’m exactly where I want to be. I’m in the middle of a dream. I’m just here to leave a mark, make an impression with my teammates and be the best I can be.”

Bridges was part of the rotation of defensive backs that saw work in Monday’s preseason game in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, registering a knockdown. He was running occasionally with the defensive starters at practice on Wednesday. Said Bridges of the preseason game and managing the balance between enjoying the experience and the pressures of an audition:

“Of all the rest of the job interviews in the world, this is the fun one,” he said. “We’ve been doing this since we were 10 years old. We’re all grown men playing a kid’s game and so we’ve got to keep that in perspective every time we step on this field. That’s why I wanted to have fun and remember there are people out there who would love to be in my position and I’m fortunate to be here.”

And, for the record, since losing a championship game in high school, Bridges is on a six-for-six championship run of teams he’s suited up through college and the IFL.

“Yeah,” he said with a grin, “and we’re going to keep it going.

“It’s funny, the first time I stepped into the room here it was almost nostalgic — it was the same kind of culture and locker room I knew in college and in the IFL. That’s what wins: everybody’s a good athlete, the coaches are good on every level but at the end of the day culture and community and putting it on the line for your brother is what puts you over the edge. I’ve been blessed to be around some great people, great organizations and great communities and cultures.”

Further to the above: Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea on Bridges: “He’s come on. It’s just a great reminder all the time to not be an early evaluator. You see a couple things in the first day of practice and there’s a whole bunch of them — not just Marquise Bridges — that have just really started to come on and take off and they’re around the football and defensively are around the football a lot more or offensively are right and making more catches and have a better feel for the field dimensions.

“What I’ve noticed this year is there’s a fairly large clump of guys that are really starting to feel more comfortable with what they’re doing. That’s the amount of work they’re doing, obviously, but the coaching staff getting these kids up to speed and giving them the nuances of the game so they can do more than run a route or get to this point and break. They’re staring to feel it more, which puts them around the ball more.”

Comings/goings: The Blue Bombers added three players on Wednesday, including OL Kendall Randolph — the Alabama tackle who hasn’t practised since his arrival before rookie camp. Also coming aboard are receiver Sy Barnett (6-0, 190; Davenport) and DB Russell Dandy (6-0, 170; Eastern Illinois). Barnett had an NFL look from the New Orleans Saints last year and was with the Arlington Renegades of the UFL before coming north. Dandy led the FCS with 19 knockdowns last year at Eastern Illinois, setting a school record and earned Walter Camp All-America honours while being named a first team All-Big South/OVC Football Association selection. The club also released receiver Oliver Martin.

Meanwhile, kicker Sergio Castillo was transferred to the suspended list so he could return home for a personal matter — he’s expected back this weekend — while rising Canadian defensive tackle Cam Lawson was placed on the six-game injured list after being hurt in Monday’s game.

“He’ll be six (on the list for the entire time), for sure,” said O’Shea. “It’s going to be a little longer, I imagine. I don’t know if it’s going to be the full year or not but he’s definitely going to need the six and probably more than that. I would assume more than that.”

The Blue Bombers have five Canadian defensive linemen in camp other than Lawson in veteran Jake Thomas, Tanner Schmekel, Collin Cornelson — both 2023 draft picks — as well as Kyle Samson and end Owen Hubert, both selected this year. Anthony Bennett, last year’s top pick, remains in Winnipeg and is rehabbing an offseason injury.

Quotable: “I felt pretty good because I had fun. I had a lot of fun. I felt like a little kid in a candy store. I did a lot of things but I could have done better. It was definitely a learning experience. Just being on a professional football field, that’s every kid’s dream. A lot of people would kill to be in the spot I’m in right now. So I’m just extremely blessed to be here.” — Blue Bombers defender Tre Thomas, who refers to his position as a ‘hybrid’ between linebacker and defensive back.

‘Hybrid’ defender Tre Thomas

Next: The Blue Bombers are back on the field Thursday morning at Princess Auto Stadium from 8:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m. All practices are open to the public.