May 30, 2023

Tait: Tyrell Pigrome impresses in Bombers’ preseason debut

The Canadian Press

It was a term Tyrrell Pigrome first heard in high school, back when he was the 2015 Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama – ‘smooth is fast’ – and it’s stuck with him all these years later.

“My coach back then told me that,” Pigrome said. “Think fast so you can move fast because smooth is fast.”

Pigrome certainly lived by that mantra during his time at the controls of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence in Saturday’s 25-23 win over the Edmonton Elks in the club’s first preseason test. The 25-year-old rookie scored twice – the first a QB sneak, the second a sensational 45-yard run in which he got outside the pocket and then rocketed untouched to the end zone – while completing 2-of-4 pass attempts for 43 yards as all four pivots saw action in the win.

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It started inauspiciously enough; in his first series behind centre he had to chase down and fall on an errant snap that put the club in a second-and-27 situation. Pigrome settled in and then delivered a 34-yard strike to Jeremy Murphy that showcased his arm strength.

Smooth is fast, sure. But delivering a ball in that situation checks a lot of evaluation boxes, too.

“When (the high snap) happened, I was just shaking my head on the ground and I was like, ‘C’mon, why me?’” Pigrome said afterward. “But at the same time, every time I take the field, whether it was at practice or whether it’s in the game I tell myself, ‘Be calm, be confident and just stay patient. Just take what the defence gives you and always have confidence in yourself.

“For those things to happen for me in this game, the first game, it’s a blessing. But it’s just the beginning. I’ve still have to make the team, still have to keep working, pushing… I’m still trying to better myself and take notes from Dru (Brown) and Zach (Collaros) and any coaches so I can keep getting better and be a better player for the team.”

Pigrome is fighting Josh Jones for the third string QB gig with the Blue Bombers, and it’s a role that involves more than standing on the sidelines with a ball hat on charting play calls. Buck Pierce’s offence utilizes a variety of looks in the short-yardage package and Pigrome’s talents – the speed mixed with the big arm – make him an intriguing prospect. Jones, for what it’s worth, has solid rushing and passing stats from his college days, too, but he didn’t get his turn until just over four minutes were left in the game.

“He can really move. Very athletic,” said head coach Mike O’Shea of Pigrome after the game. “When he decides to take off, it’s going to be tough to handle. There’s still lots to clean up: understanding of the clock, game flow and decision making. It’s something everybody needs to get better at.”

Pigrome’s route to the Blue Bombers this spring has been a circuitous one. A star at Clay-Chalkville High in Alabama, he began his college career at the University of Maryland, transferring after his fourth year to Western Kentucky, then to Ole Miss and finally at Towson. FYI, he has a family science degree from Maryland and has been working on earning a master’s degree in business. He also majored in sports marketing and took business and fashion courses at Towson.

Interestingly, he did have a tryout with the Elks this spring after his Pro Day but had been previously scouted by Blue Bombers Assistant GM/Director of Player Personnel Danny McManus and earned his invitation to rookie camp. There’s even a story behind that – Pigrome had never left the country before and didn’t have a passport, and the scramble to get that done included driving eight hours to Detroit. And then on the second day of rookie camp his partner Nayda gave birth to their first child, Lavani. The club gave him permission to head home after that, but he returned just a few days later.

That’s a whole pile of stuff going on over the span of just a few weeks.

But as Pigrome handled his moment post-game – juggling interview requests and slaps on the back/fist bumps from teammates – one sentiment kept coming forth in at all: his gratitude just to have the opportunity.

“It’s a blessing to be here,” he said with grin. “I’m learning different things, seeing different people, seeing different things. It’s all been good.”


More on the Blue Bombers win in this week’s edition of UPON FURTHER REVIEW…

What happens next in the lead-up… to the final preseason game this Friday at home against the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be interesting.

Officially the club doesn’t need to slice down to its final roster until Saturday, June 3rd and with a home preseason game, the team can dress as many players as it chooses.

O’Shea said after the game the coaching staff would need a health status report before determining whether cuts would be made in advance of Friday vs. the Riders, but with so many starters getting a lot of work on Saturday against the Elks, this final tune-up could feature a ton of new faces. It’s also possible the numbers may come down a bit in advance of the weekend, depending on whether some of the veterans who have been sidelined return to practice, like Adam Bighill, Brady Oliveira, Winston Rose, Desmond Lawrence, Tui Eli and Jackson Jeffcoat among them.

Stats from preseason games shouldn’t set off alarm bells… but they do point to potential future problems.

A couple numbers that will likely lead to some serious discussion in the coaches’ offices:

The Elks rushed the ball 28 times for 160 yards, or 6.4 yards per carry. Those numbers were bolstered by Edmonton’s first possession of the second half when they marched 73 yards on 16 plays – 12 of them runs – capped by a seven-yard TD run by Tre Ford. That drive took over eight minutes off the clock and while it was with many of the defensive starters off the field, it wasn’t a good look for a defence that has been stout against the run.

That drive was followed by a quick two-and-out buy the Blue Bombers and then a nine-play drive by the Elks – all passes this time – that meant Dru Brown and the offence were only able to run two offensive plays in the quarter.

Winnipeg had only six penalties for 33 yards on the day, but four were preventable as defensive line offside call. That will undoubtedly be a point of emphasis this week for a club that is consistently the least-penalized team in the CFL.

For those fans who have been regularly attending practices… take note: there will not be a session on Monday. The team is expected to be back on the field Tuesday, time still to be determined.

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