WINNIPEG - It was two years ago, in Washington, and an old warhorse named Mike Sellers was chatting with a young running back named Chad Simpson.
A former Winnipeg Blue Bomber and a future one, it turned out.
“He was just going on about the glory days of him jumping over people,” a laughing Simpson recalled, Friday. “He was just telling me how it’s no different from the NFL, player-wise. People can play over there.”
It looks like this one can, too.
The 26-year-old Simpson raised eyebrows from his first day at mini-camp last month, and hasn’t stopped, since.
Quarterbacks, coaches and the D-linemen trying to chase him down have all noticed the little man with the big speed wearing No. 5.
“Chad Simpson is fast,” defensive end Jason Vega said. “He’s blazing.”
From head coach Paul LaPolice the other day: “He certainly is a dynamic football player. He’s got very good skills and he’s very intelligent. He’s a hardworking kid.”
That doesn’t leave much, does it?
Barring a complete collapse in the two preseason games, the 5-foot-9, 205-pounder from Miami is a lock to be on this team.
I know, it’s one thing to run fast, another entirely to turn that into something productive when the bright lights are on.
But Simpson isn’t a raw rookie. His NFL stint includes a couple years with Indianapolis, one with the Redskins.
If you’re still not convinced, just ask the guy.
“I will be here,” Simpson said, without sounding overconfident, somehow. “I’m not trying to come off as cocky. That’s how I stay sane. That’s how I keep playing, how I play relaxed.
“I’m trying to be as humble as I can. But I’m trying to start.”
The more Simpson sees of the wide field and the rules, the more he sees himself eating up three-down football.
“I was just always fascinated with Canada ball, because of the wide field and the 12th person,” he said. “You can do so much here. You can move in the backfield — I’ll never jump offside. It’s a fun game. I’m lovin’ the rules. I love that waggle.
“More athleticism. You only have three downs to do it. You have to make something happen on first down if you get the ball... if you want it again.”
The only thing he doesn’t like: on punt returns, the field’s so wide he can’t be back there by himself.
But the five-yard restraining zone is pure heaven.
“I’m lovin’ that deal there. You have no choice but to make plays, given the right amount of blocks.”
Given the right opportunity, you wonder what role Simpson could play.
Incumbent tailback Chris Garrett will have plenty to say about that.
If Simpson can earn the kick returner spot, he’d make a great second punch from the backfield, if not a change of pace.
He and Garrett have similar styles, including a penchant for finishing runs with a bang.
“I’m looking for contact,” Simpson said. “But again, with this wide field, no need for contact most of the time, if I can beat somebody to the sideline.”
His contact with the fans is one thing that’s surprised him about Winnipeg.
“I didn’t hear about the team, so comin’ up here I figured they don’t have many fans,” he said. “But when we come out the first practice and have over 7,500...
“People recognize me. I was in the mall the other day. I know I haven’t done much yet for them to know me, so I know they have to love their football for them to know someone like me.”
Simpson heard a bit about this town’s love affair with its football team from an old Washington teammate.
“He’d go on about that,” Simpson said of Sellers, the big fullback who won hearts here a decade ago. “I would love that — who wouldn’t?”
He should get his chance.