Thigpen's time to shine
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|Tiger-Cats running back Marcus Thigpen moves the ball against the Stampeders in Moncton, N.B., last weekend.
HAMILTON - As the weeks elapsed and as his patience began to get tested, Marcus Thigpen started to wonder when opportunity would knock.
There were moments when the second-year Tiger-Cat would huddle with the team’s coaching staff, but at no point was there a time when the versatile offensive player made an ultimatum.
In the world of professional football, all one needs is one game to make an impression and for Thigpen it would arrive in Moncton.
Six catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns later, Thigpen would help change the complexion of Hamilton’s offence, which has gone from featuring tall receivers to all of sudden fielding speedsters capable of forming a sprint relay once the ball gets in their hands.
With the Argos up next for the Ticats, as long as the likes of Thigpen continue to produce, it doesn’t seem likely any changes will be made, but losing has a way of forcing teams to re-evaluate their approach.
For Hamilton, it took back-to-back lopsided losses to Montreal and Edmonton to initiate the self-analysis, resulting in Thigpen making his first start as a receiver when he lined up at slotback.
In his rookie year with the Ticats, Thigpen would carve a name as a special teams dynamo and occasionally used out of the backfield or as a receiver.
When training camp rolled around, he’d be showcased at the slot, but there would no starts until Hamilton faced its fork in the road en route to the Maritimes.
“I was just waiting,” Thigpen said on Tuesday. “I’m a man of faith and thanks also to my teammates I just stuck to it because I knew my time would come.
“I knew I could help our team.”
Where once the Ticats lined up with towering bodies in Aaron Kelly and Bakari Grant, the team now boasts the diminutive dimension of Thigpen, Chris Williams and Terry Grant, guys who can flat-out run and make plays.
Thigpen isn’t sure who among the three would win a sprint race, but the thought has been broached.
“We’ve always talked about it, but we’ve never done it,’’ Thigpen said. “Watching each other, we came to the conclusion that Chris is maybe the quickest and I’m maybe the fastest, but you never know until we actually race.”
And now that Thigpen is coming off a game where he not only dominated on special teams, earning him the CFL’s weekly honours on the strength of a missed field goal for a touchdown, but also as a receiver.
“I just hate being on the sideline,” he added. “Any player on this team hates being on the sideline.
“Once I finally got in, I felt I needed to prove myself and let them (coaching staff) I deserved to be out there. That was really my statement.”
It would prove to be a statement punctuated by an exclamation point.
One win later and the doom and gloom that hovered over the Hammer is now gone, at least until a loss causes more anxious times.
With Winnipeg dealing with crushing injuries and the Als no longer dominant as they once were, there’s an opportunity for Hamilton to finally make that jump from a .500 team into fist place.
Following their meeting with Toronto, the Ticats will play the Blue Bombers and the Als.
“Our destiny is in our own hands,’’ Thigpen said.