A Hamilton Tiger-Cats fan hustled through the stands at Ron Joyce Stadium and reached down over the wall to hand Samuel Giguère a Ticats jersey and a Sharpie pen as the receiver exited the field after his first day at rookie camp.
He gave a quiet smile and scribbled an autograph as the fan chattered: “Man, I’ve waited a long time to see you here.”
A lot of time has passed since the Ticats drafted Giguère in 2008. After his stellar career at the University of Sherbrooke, the team grabbed the Canadian’s CFL rights and then patiently waited as he pursued an NFL career.
The Ticats’ patience paid off, as Giguère finally attended his first CFL training camp at McMaster University on Thursday.
The 5-foot-11, 218-pound pass-catcher spent his first day getting reacquainted with the Canadian game after spending the last four seasons battling on practice rosters with the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants. He ran out of scout team eligibility, and no NFL team signed him to its active roster.
“I’m happy with this opportunity, and I’m getting adjusted,” Giguère said. “The waggle is a big part of it, the field is so much bigger, having two halfbacks, 12 defenders – they are all small adjustments, but as training camp goes on, I’ll get more acclimated.”
Being in the CFL also allows Giguère to pursue another passion: He wants to compete for Canada in bobsleigh at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
By invitation from Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, Giguère attended a week-long training camp in March at the Ice House indoor push-start facility at Calgary Olympic Park. He said he is hooked on the sport.
A handful of other football players participated, such as Calgary Stampeders receiver Anthony Parker, University of Saskatchewan running back Ben Coakwell and former Toronto Argonauts linebacker Jean-Nicolas Carrière. They worked alongside the Canada 1 team of driver Lyndon Rush and ex-CFLer Jesse Lumsden.
Lumsden had mentioned the idea to Giguère in the past, urging him to try it.
“I’ve had interest in the sport for a long time, but the NFL was 12 months a year, so it was out of the question for me before,” said Giguère, adding the bobsleigh World Cup season runs December through March. “But the CFL is sort of a six-month job, so it’s more feasible here. If I have a shot to make the Olympic team, I really want to do it. I loved the speed and the adrenaline rush.”
During 1-on-1 drills Thursday, the 26-year-old receiver showcased his speed and had some nice catches mixed in with a few misses. He beat a defensive back to make a particularly nice deep catch and sailed into the end zone. But he also had another ball go right through his hands.
“He’s fast, there’s not any doubt about that,” Hamilton head coach George Cortez said. “It was a good start today.”
Cortez said he advised Giguère that the toughest part for players coming to the CFL from the U.S. game is breaking the habit of staying motionless at the snap.
Giguère added he was struck immediately by the feeling of returning to a wider field, yet he relished having the extra space to separate from defenders. The addition of Giguère, alongside Andy Fantuz and Dave Stala, may well give the Ticats a chance to have three Canadian receivers on the field at once, a ratio bonus.
The Tiger-Cats rookie camp runs through this week, and veterans report for full-team camp on Sunday. No. 1 quarterback Henry Burris, acquired from Calgary in the off-season, threw only a few passes Thursday, saving his arm for main camp.