Adam Bighill won’t change the approach that made him a CFL star when he wears the jersey of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
The five-foot-10, 230-pound linebacker will get his first NFL opportunity after signing a three-year deal with the Saints earlier this month. The former Central Washington star was bypassed in the league’s 2011 draft and instead signed with the B.C. Lions.
Under-sized by NFL standards, Bighill adjusted quickly to Canadian football, becoming a starter as a rookie. He missed only nine games with B.C., and just three after the 2011 season when the Lions won the Grey Cup.
“I don’t see (cracking the Saints’ roster) too much different than if I were to evaluate myself up here,” Bighill said. “Just be consistent, have trust in what you’re going to do on the field every snap and build trust within the coaching staff.
“It’s not really about making sure you get it right, it’s all about knowing where you’re going and are they going to be able to stop you? They (Saints coaches) will learn I’m going to give them everything I’ve got. Football is my life and I take it very seriously.”
Bighill isn’t the only former CFL player on New Orleans’ roster.
The Saints also added defensive back Forrest Hightower of the Grey Cup-champion Ottawa Redblacks this off-season and their roster features defensive backs Delvin Breaux and Erik Harris, two former Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Bighill had six productive seasons with B.C., registering 489 tackles and 33 sacks in 99 games. Last year, he and fellow linebacker Solomon Elimimian became the first teammates to register 100 or more tackles in the same season.
“I’m going to miss (Elimimian), my teammates and the coaches and the friends I’ve made throughout the CFL,” he said. “Leaving a legacy is something I really wanted to do but at the same time you realize you can only play this game for so long.
“This is really going to be the best opportunity for me and my family.”
Bighill admits facing many challenges early in his CFL career. But six years later, he feels he’s better equipped now to battle for an NFL position than he was after university.
“When you’re playing professional football in your rookie year, things are moving pretty fast,” he said. “Everything is new, you’ve never seen these things before, you’re used to playing (American) football and you come up here, more or less, to a completely different game.
“I’d say throughout my six years here I’ve expanded my football knowledge immensely. The game is so much slower now, my eyes are able to see more and I can process more even before the snap. And when that happens for a player, it’s a big advantage.”
Bighill doesn’t see encountering any difficulties having to now revert back to American football.
“I think it’ll be easier going back just because of the cerebralness you need for the CFL game,” Bighill said. “With receivers moving around, running backs getting out of the backfield it (Canadian football) is the most organized chaos, that’s the best way I could put it.
“In the NFL, you have one guy that can motion or you’ll have three people move and set themselves but there’s not a bunch of motion. When people line up you can, for the most part, get a really good clue of what they’re going to do just based on their alignment.”
Experience has also taught Bighill when to tangle with hulking offensive linemen, although he doesn’t see much difference in the size of linemen between the leagues.
“In my mind, the average in the CFL would be around six foot four and 305-310 pounds,” he said. “In the NFL, it might be six foot four and 315 pounds but I think you’re going to see guys be a bit more athletic.
“But for me, being under-sized isn’t a concern because I feel like I play like I’m six foot two and have the technique to take on blocks and use my instincts to put myself in good position. Sometimes there’s no sense locking up with a big offensive lineman but you need to know when to come downhill and fill the gap and hold the point . . . I know how to play both.”
Bighill can also shine on special teams, giving him more opportunities to impress the Saints’ brass.
“Special-teams is going to be a huge part of the game,” he said. “Even your starting linebackers down there are on one or two special teams.
“I think my athleticism and explosiveness are going to be a huge part of what I’m doing.”
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press