Bighill seeks to make most of second chance with Saints

Going the Rounds — By Rick Anderson

Entering his second season with the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints, Adam Bighill is hoping to experience deja vu.

Not in the sense of re-living a frustrating 2017 campaign that he spent mostly on the Saints’ practice squad. The Montesano High graduate will instead be trying to repeat his introduction to professional football.

As an undrafted rookie linebacker on the Canadian Football League’s British Columbia Lions in 2011, Bighill was relegated to the practice squad for seven weeks.

Once activated, he made an impact almost immediately. During a six-year career with the Lions, he earned all-CFL recognition on several occasions and was named the league’s Top Defensive Player in 2015.

Inducted into Montesano High School’s Hall of Fame last weekend, the 29-year-old Bighill is preparing for his second season with the Saints. The club’s pre-camp OTA (Organized Team Activity) begins April 16.

Considering his success in the CFL, Bighill raised a few eyebrows when he signed with the Saints last year.

“After proving what I did in the CFL, I knew I could play in the NFL and belong,” he said in a telephone interview last week. “Some of it was timing and some of it was the opportunity. I felt that if I didn’t take the opportunity, I’d never know (if I could play in the NFL).”

By all accounts, Bighill was impressive on both defense and special teams during New Orleans pre-season game. His accomplishments included a game-ending interception that preserved an exhibition victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Although several media and online sources projected him for a roster spot, Bighill opened the season on the practice squad. Some speculated that, at 230 pounds, he was a trifle light for an NFL linebacker, but Bighill said he never received a specific explanation for the decision.

“I was surprised and I think a lot of people were surprised I didn’t make the active roster,” he said. “I proved I could play in the league and make a contribution toward winning, but it wasn’t in the cards at the time.”

He was activated for special teams duty in three early season contests, but was put on waivers in midseason. Eventually, he returned to the Saints and spent the remainder of the campaign on the practice squad.

Bighill insists that the adjustment to game-day inactivity wasn’t as hard as might be imagined.

“I wouldn’t say it was difficult,” he maintained. “It was an uphill battle to go down there and try to turn heads. There’s going to be frustration, but I prepared myself for dealing with it.”

He impressed the Saints enough to be signed for another year.

While his ultimate goal is to play outside linebacker, he indicated that a special teams role might be more likely next season. His speed, tackling ability and desire seemingly makes him a natural for the punting and kickoff units.

“My hope is that I’m going to be on the roster as a special teams player,” Bighill said.

Renowned since high school for his strong work ethic, Bighill is training regularly in Vancouver, B.C., where he lives with his wife and two children.

He is working with Rob Williams, a Vancouver kinesiologist who has gained a reputation as a “movement coach.”

“My main focus is just moving better — always find ways to get faster, be more athletic,” Bighill said.

Bighill isn’t second-guessing himself for leaving the comfort of the CFL. Nor does he regret not making the move sooner, although he said he had some unspecified opportunities to join the NFL a couple of years earlier.

“The timing didn’t seem great,” he said of earlier offers, “so I elected to stay with B.C.”

The Saints were one of the NFL’s biggest surprises last season. Projected as an also-ran, New Orleans wound up winning the NFC South Division for the first time since 2011 before being victimized by “The Minneapolis Miracle” — Case Keenum’s 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs on the final play of the game that gave the Minnesota Vikings a 29-24 victory over the Saints in the second round of the NFL playoffs.

As he prepares for training camp, Bighill is confident he can assist in further progress next season.

“The goal is to be on the active roster and make a difference every week in winning and losing,” he summarized.