Lasting impression

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Jason Nugent was barking out orders yesterday like a waitress at a truckstop diner.

"Strong left!"

"Money, money, money!"

It was the third and final day of Winnipeg Blue Bombers rookie camp, and the 25-year-old from Scarborough, Ont., was already manning the safety spot with the vocal authority of a 12-year veteran.

"We can't give the offence free plays by messing up coverages," Nugent said. "If you mess up a coverage and have a guy who didn't hear the call, then I put that on myself.

"If I scream it loud enough and I double check with them that they know what they're doing, then I can really depend on those guys."

Sounds like someone who knows what he's doing, despite having just one game of CFL experience under his belt. In fact, Bombers head coach Doug Berry said the former Rutgers Scarlet Knight has performed well enough to be in the running for Winnipeg's starting safety job.

"He's going to have a legitimate chance at it," Berry said. "He's a very intelligent guy, so based on physical attributes and the mental capacity ... we'll see what happens when we put pads on, but right now we think he's got a chance."

Nugent wasn't sure what his football future held after tearing an ACL in his senior season at Rutgers in the fall of 2005. The Edmonton Eskimos still picked him 17th overall in the 2006 draft, but he tried to come back too soon from surgery.

"Some guys it takes them 10 months to 12 months," the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Nugent said. "I tried to come back in six, and it really didn't work out the way it was supposed to."

He ended up watching training camp and all of last season except for one game late in the year in which he made his CFL debut as a special teamer.

"The good thing about it was I got to sit back and really learn from the vets like William Loftus and Kelly Wiltshire," Nugent said. "I just really got to sit back and watch those guys, how they act as a professional athlete."

Then came April 11, the day the Eskimos shipped Nugent to Winnipeg in exchange for import defensive tackle Ron Warner.

"I really didn't see it coming," Nugent said.

Then he glanced at the Bomber roster and liked who he saw. Even better was the fact that they're looking for a starting safety, preferably Canadian, if Kyries Hebert moves to linebacker.

Now it's all up to him.

"I just want to do whatever the coaches tell me to do," he said. "If they want me to run down a kickoff, I'll do that. I'll do anything they tell me to do. I'm just here to win. That's the No. 1 thing."


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