The New Orleans Saints have had a pretty rich history of tapping into the depths of Canada to find football talent. This season, the team brought in the likes of Adam Bighill, Forrest Hightower, and Anthony Gaitor - all defensive players - to the 2017 mix. On the surface, not much is known about these particular players, but that’s about to change as we first focus on Bighill in a three-part series.
New Orleans was the only professional tryout for Bighill, and that’s all it took. With onlookers Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, and Terry Fontenot all in attendance for the big tryout in mid-December with over 15 players, Bighill was one that made a huge impression.
"He blew us away in the workout," Fontenot said. "He's explosive and fun to watch."
Bighill was rewarded on Jan. 4 with a three-year deal by the Saints after playing 99 games in his six-year stint with the Lions, totaling 489 defensive tackles, 69 special teams tackles, 33 sacks, 8 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles, and a touchdown.
“The opportunity with the Saints is everything I’ve worked for. My whole life has been to get this opportunity,” Bighill said.
Upon first look, you might be shocked to see that Bighill is 28, approaching 29 in October. In football years, that doesn’t seem desirable or attractive. In all honesty, it may cause one to overlook everything completely. Then you factor in that he comes in at just 5-foot-10, weighing in at 230-pounds.
However, that’s simply not the case when you watch him play. Bighill exhibits a thorough combination of power, awareness, and finesse to win. In some cases, he made it look way too easy to shed off blockers, whether it be a guard, center, tackle, or running back.
“I’m coming in as a guy who has played pro football for six years and who understands what it takes to be a pro.”
Bighill is no stranger to showing off his strength through training, also showing dedication to his craft. In talking with Mike Beamish with The Vancouver Sun, he only echoed what you see in some of his film.
“From what I've read about Pat Tillman, there's something of that intensity in Adam,” Beamish said.
“He's not big -- but incredibly strong. His personal trainer, Rob Williams, says he can throw down a man outweighing him by 100 pounds. To compensate for his lack of size, Adam constantly is investigating new training methods to improve his strength, mobility and quickness.”
Bighill, who wore No. 44 with the Lions, has a highlight tape from 2016 that you surely won’t want to miss. Be sure to check out his 2015 highlights from when he was CFL Defensive Player of the Year.
When asked, Bighill said that he hasn’t studied or modeled his game after anyone.
“I try to be the best at every phase of the game: tackling, coverage, block protection, communication, intelligence, footwork, speed, power, etc. Overall, it is my own style to have no weaknesses.”
Bighill was a standout running back and linebacker in high school at Montesano, Washington, but didn’t garner any interest from Division I clubs. Instead, Bighill ended up in Division II with Central Washington. After going undrafted in 2011, Bighill was recommended to the B.C. Lions by quarterback Mike Reilly, who went to the same school.
Eventually, Bighill would get his shot to start for the Lions in 2012, and went on to become a CFL All-Star during that season, which would be the first of four times in his six-year career. In 2015, he was the league’s defensive player of the year.
Beamish labeled Bighill an incredibly hard worker, “He is also a demon on special teams -- because of roster limitations, even defensive stars play specials teams in the CFL -- and he seems to thrive on the prodigious workload.”
“In a nutshell, he's a sideline-to-sideline, end-zone-to-end-zone player with a non-stop motor,” Beamish added.
Beamish was quick to point out that the B.C. Lions had five players sign with NFL teams at the end of last season, none of which were offensive players. With an emphasis on passing in the CFL, it would make sense to look Bighill’s way, as he played a lot in coverage while being able to cover a ton of ground.
As a Central Washington alumni, Bighill is familiar with the track history of the Wildcats, as only one player (Jon Kitna) has been able to make an impact in the NFL. Both share the similarity of being undrafted.
“My goal is to help the Saints win in any fashion I can. I believe in my ability to dominate a special teams role, as well as compete for a starting linebacker spot. I intend on coming in and making a difference.”
Bighill is also adamant on making a difference in the community. Making Faces is a Toronto-based charity that is dedicated to helping others cope with facial differences. Having personally been born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, Bighill is a huge advocate and on the board of this non-profit organization.
“It’s something that when I’m down there I really want to get off the ground and get going in the New Orleans area.”