With an Aug. 5 kickoff looking more and more likely, 2 and Out writers Troy Durrell and Kyle Marshall will be talking to players off all nine CFL teams to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, their off-season training and their level of optimism of the season starting on time. This week’s guest is Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman Derek Wiggan.
Derek Wiggan wanted to play basketball as a kid, attending many basketball camps, but once football grabbed a hold of him, it never let go.
While taking part in introductions at one of these b-ball camps, he mentioned that he enjoyed playing two-hand touch football in the park with his buddies in his free time. One of the coaches took notice of this, and asked Wiggan to come and take part in a community team in his home city of Toronto.
The 28-year-old defensive lineman is an avid gamer and says that playing NFL Gameday on the original PlayStation also helped spark an interest in the sport, but as soon as he got to do it for real, he was hooked. “Once I got to play it and put on pads, it took over every other sport,” Wiggan said.
Wiggan got his start in organized football in grade eight and was able to play at the junior level, which is usually grades nine and ten. He quickly jumped to the senior squad for grades ten through twelve.
As a result of this, a lot of his friends were a year older and in their senior years were being scouted and recruited by top schools across the country, giving Wiggan some extra exposure. When it was time for him to choose a school to go to, he went on a tour of different institutions but ultimately chose Queen’s University.
Wiggan knew that a bunch of seniors on the team were graduating, which would also help open up some playing time. He spent five years at Queen’s and was an All-Canadian in his fourth year, with his best season coming in his last, where he amassed 44 tackles and 5.5 sacks in eight games.
He was a first team OUA All-Star in 2012 and 2013 and participated in the 2013 East-West Bowl, which is when he said he really started to believe he could go somewhere. He didn’t know until that point that he could use the OUA (CIS at the time) as a path to the pros. “I always thought that you had to go play in the NCAA in order to play pro football,” said Wiggan.
He finally realized his dream when the Calgary Stampeders drafted him 34th overall in 2014 and attended camp with the big club, but returned to Queen’s for one more year.
Wiggan cracked the Stamps’ roster in 2015, getting into 16 games but only starting once. That was the theme the first couple of seasons for Wiggan. 2016 brought him just one more start than the previous year, but he said the lack of playing time never discouraged him and that he knew his time would come.
After a Grey Cup victory in 2018, the 2019 season was that time. Wiggan got into all 18 games that season, recording 35 tackles, four sacks and two special teams tackles. He was able to parlay that into a new two-year contract with the Stamps. The new deal was signed fairly quickly after the season was over, which meant a lot to Wiggan and made him feel like a priority.
“Sometimes you do wonder if people are noticing the work you put in,” Wiggan said.
That work brings him back home to Toronto during the off-season, which is where he trains most of the time. After taking December off, his training kicks back into high gear in the new year. Wiggan and his trainer will also head somewhere warm, usually either Florida or Arizona.
Wiggan and his trainer were already moving to more outdoor workouts in Arizona when the pandemic shut things down, so it was an easier transition but still tough when he couldn’t have his usual weight training. Even though he’s back in Alberta now, gyms haven’t been able to stay open regularly, which is still hurting his rhythm.
During his down time during the pandemic, Wiggan turned his love of gaming into a YouTube channel where he would edit and post the videos he recorded of him playing. He also got into TV shows such as Mr. Robot and The Sopranos.
Wiggan said that the toughest part of not playing last season was not knowing what was going to happen. The lack of communication from the league affected his trust a bit, as his main source of information was a lot of rumours from insiders and communications with other players.
As for the possibility of a 2021 season, Wiggan wants to play, but remains a little dubious about the situation though he knows it is absolutely doable.
“Part of me will always be skeptical,” said Wiggan. He said that players are ready to do whatever they have to do. “If we really want to get this going, it can happen.”