The Next One?

JULIE HORBAL -- For Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

Some may say it's not easy being Derick Armstrong these days.

The 27-year-old most recent addition to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers roster having signed on Sept. 19 came into the camp lauded as the potential player to pick the team up by its collective bootstraps. Some are touting him as the man whose determination might take some pressure off legendary slotback Milt Stegall.

But that's not the worst of it.

In fact, Armstrong admits to relishing those challenges.

It is the challenge he was faced with recently that has the wide receiver wondering if Winnipeg is in fact the place for him.

After all, Armstrong spent just two weeks in Winnipeg prior to the Bombers' last bye week of the season, went home to Texas for a visit -- and returned to find flurries fluttering down on his first practice back.

"There's been nothing really to adjust to here, just that it's cold," laughs Armstrong, who -- despite spending the 2001-02 seasons in Saskatchewan -- was still shivering nearly ten minutes after returning to the warmth of the Blue locker room last week.

"I wasn't expecting it to get this cold right away. I have to adjust to the cold. As far as playing, if you can play good, you can play good anywhere."

That go-to attitude is something the former Houston Texans receiver was hailed for when the Winnipeg organization hunted him down and plucked him from the aftermath of NFL cuts last month, depositing him in the home of the Blue and Gold -- a place which has been frigid in more ways than one of late.

When Armstrong arrived, the Bombers were knee-high in both injuries and insults and something -- or someone -- needed to make a big impact. Fast.

And though turning around the less-than-optimal season was not left solely in the hands of Armstrong, the new kid on the block - who not only had an immense chemistry with current Bombers QB Kevin Glenn in Saskatchewan four years ago, but also earned praises as an under-the-radar guy in Texas - was facing some major pressure to be the cog which transformed the trudging Bombers into a well-oiled machine.

A reported $7,000 per game's worth of pressure to be exact.

And that set some high expectations.

Not that Armstrong particularly minds those.

"When you're playing this sport, you're always under pressure," he says. "It's all tied together. You just come out and think about what you can do to help a team win."

After spending four years in the NFL Armstrong was not especially looking to make his CFL return in Winnipeg, if he was looking to return to Canada at all.

He admits the Bomber deal was a last resort that allowed him to "just have a job," but also admits there is nowhere he would rather be now that he is in town.

That pliability and pleasure to play was evident from the first day he stepped on the field and Armstrong's new teammates -- even the one his work ethic has drawn comparisons to -- are quick to express their pleasure with having such a solid and sensical guy on their side.

"He's a big-play receiver, a solid guy," says Stegall, who has now seen Armstrong through two contests. "He learns the offence pretty fast. And he's willing to do whatever he can to help this team."

When asked if Armstrong is the second coming of the almighty Milt, however, Stegall is even quicker to respond.

"Nobody can replace Milt," Stegall laughs. "I guess they're always looking for that. (But) I just want him to do what he does. There's a lot of things he does a lot better than Milt Stegall. ... He's a big guy. He can go up and get the ball. Put a smaller guy on him and he's going to make him pay for it."

The 6-foot-2, 216-pound speedster pulls balls out of mid-air and is quite the player to watch, as Stegall suggests. But, though Armstrong is greatly appreciative of the accolades his teammates are paying him, the rewards the fans and football community as a whole pay the players in Winnipeg tops his lists of reasons to play here.

"Up here they appreciate the players more as opposed to being down south," says Armstrong. "If you're not one of the big-name guys, you're just sort of out there and not really appreciated. Up here, everyone is a good player and that's the good thing about being in this organization."

The infamous football culture of Winnipeg is one that came back to Armstrong's mind during his contract talks and he admits the old desire to beat Winnipeg has fueled his desire to help Winnipeg beat anyone -- and everyone -- else in the CFL.

"When I played against them five years ago, Winnipeg was the team to beat. They were always the team for the playoffs, whereas now, they're the team tipping for the playoffs and I'm excited," he says. "It's a good ride right now, I'm enjoying myself and we're just trying to win football games. ... Wins. That's all we want. Just wins. We just want to make the playoffs and then go farther."

Though the determination Armstrong exudes is one which might not be expected of a player who was -- though he won't phrase it that way -- less than looking forward to landing in Winnipeg, Armstrong is just the kind of guy who becomes a homer wherever he goes.

And Winnipeg -- though chilly -- is now his home.

"This really was a last resort for me. But I'm here now and I'm just enjoying myself," he says. "I was excited, I was like 'Okay, this is a chance to work and have fun again,' so it ended up being a great situation for me. It's just the cold. Other than that everything else is fine. It is just cold."


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