Ticat eager to prowl

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

HAMILTON — Marcus Thigpen is like found money.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille had no idea he would have Thigpen’s unique talents to work into his system when he was building his roster for the current campaign.

In fact it wasn’t until six days after the Ticats pre-season campaign wound up and six days before the regular season began, that Thigpen became available.

But he has been making up for lost time since and despite a to-this-point limited role, bigger things are in store for the one-time Michigan sprint champion.

Thigpen was picked up by the Tabbies on June 26, the day after the Saskatchewan Roughriders cut him.

Thigpen took the Saskatchewan news hard. It was the third professional team ­— the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos had already had him in and shipped him out — to tell him he didn’t fit into their plans and had Thigpen seriously considering giving up on the game of football.

Different plans

“I was thinking maybe football isn’t for me anymore. I felt like I had a great pre-season and a great camp and it just didn’t translate. I guess they had different plans in mind. Once I got released I was almost ready to give up.

Fortunately he didn’t have much time to ruminate on those thoughts. Three days after he was cut, the Tabbies came calling.

And from the very first time he touched the ball as a Ticat — a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the same Winnipeg Blue Bombers the Tabbies host tonight — he has made Bellefeuille and GM Bob O’Billovich extremely happy with that decision.

With very little time to work him into the equation, Thigpen has been forced to make his name almost solely on special teams. He leads the CFL in touchdowns scored with four, three off special teams and the fourth on a 33-yard scamper after catching a short pass from quarterback Kevin Glenn last Friday against Calgary.

Bellefeuille readily admits Thigpen has earned the right to a bigger role on the team. He probably would have had it by now had he been jettisoned by the Riders a little earlier.

“He didn’t have a training camp with us, but he’s kind of like when Arland (Bruce) joined us last year (four games into the regular season).

“Every week he is learning a little more about the offence and how we do things and as he does he’s going to get more playing time,” Bellefeuille said. “He played a little bit on offence last week and he made an impact in the game. That’s another dynamic we are working through with the rest of them. (He is) someone who has kind of exceeded expectation and now we’re trying to find a way to make him a part of the game plan. It’s another added element that we are working with.”

For now it appears Thigpen’s increased role on the team will come at the expense of DeAndra Cobb who has been slow out of the gate this year.

Speed demon

Cobb has averaged just three yards a carry, a number not even former Argos head coach Bart Andrus would consider successful in this league. But looking down the road, if the Tabbies are to take full advantage of this speed demon that the Riders dumped in their laps, it’s likely going to be as a bit of a hybrid player, much the way the Argos utilize Andre Durie and Bellefeuille is well aware of this.

“Hopefully he develops and grows throughout the season to where you can also play him in the slot,” the Ticats head coach said. “He left the backfield a little bit the last week, as far as running routes and that’s going to be the hardest part because he has to learn releases, he has to learn landmarks, he has to learn the intricacies of the passing game once he gets out in the slot.”

The sooner he learns that the more the Ticats can take advantage of his abilities.

And that’s good for everyone in Hamilton.


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