A lot of different words have been used to describe B.C. Lions middle linebacker Adam Bighill.
Athletic, smart, overachiever.
Backup quarterback Mike Reilly might paint the best picture of the second-year Lion.
"He's kind of like a cannon ball,'' explained Reilly, who played with Bighill at Central Washington University.
Maybe not the most flattering portrait but pretty accurate. At just five-foot-10 but a muscled 230 pounds Bighill is built like a box full of rocks. What he might lack in size he compensates with surprising speed and a nose for the football.
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"Biggie can run,'' said Lions' linebacker Anton McKenzie. "He has great quickness to the ball and he has great instinct to the ball.
"That's what helps him.''
Bighill knows some people look at his size and question if he can play linebacker. His answer comes on the field.
"If you can run, hit, tackle and do all the things that linebackers are supposed to do, it really shouldn't matter how big you are,'' Bighill said after the Lions practiced this week in preparation for Sunday's CFL game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"It (size) is something you have to overcome and show people. Not many people my size are doing what I'm doing. I'm trying to put it on the map for people like me that you can still do it.''
Heading into this week's play the 23-year-old native of Montesano, Wash., has 36 defensive tackles, second best in the league. He also has two quarterback sacks, a pair of interceptions and one forced fumble. In his spare time Bighill also has seven special teams tackles. Twice he has been named the CFL defensive player of the week.
Rich Stubler, the Lions' defensive coordinator, compares Bighill to Edmonton Eskimos linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who leads the league with 48 tackles.
"They're both overachievers,'' said Stubler. "They overachieve because they have smarts and good football sense.
"They know where the football is going to be and they find a way to get there and make plays.''
During a four-year, 44-game college career at Central Washington Bighill had 163 solo tackles, 46 of which were for a loss, along with 11 sacks and seven interceptions.
He appeared on the Lions' radar when former assistant coach Barron Miles spotted Bighill in 2010 playing at the Cactus Bowl in Kingsville,Tex.
Before coming to his first training camp Bighill called Reilly for advice. Reilly told him CFL training camps are short so he'd have to make the coaches notice him.
"He took that mentality and ran with it,'' said Reilly. "There were a lot of guys on offence that were mad at him because he was being very physical and there was a lot of contact during those practices.
"But it opened up the coaches' eyes.''
As a rookie last year Bighill appeared in 12 games and led the team with 22 special team tackles.
When all-star linebacker Solomon Elimimian agreed to a contract with the NFL Minnesota Vikings over the winter it opened the door for Bighill to move into a starting role.
"Last year I learned everything,'' he said. "I knew exactly what I needed to be doing out here. I knew with Solomon gone I would have the opportunity. I just needed to show people what I could do if I got the opportunity.
"That's something I wasn't worried about. It's something I've always done. When I've got my opportunity I've taken it and made the most of it.''
This week, Bighill and the rest of the Lions defence understand that the Riders present a special challenge.
Running back Kory Sheets is second in the league in rushing with 440 yards and six touchdowns on 83 carries. Slotback Weston Dressler is the CFL's top receiver with 513 yards and four touchdowns on 40 catches. Quarterback Darian Durant has thrown for over 1,700 yards and rushed for 146.
"They do a lot of different things,'' said Bighill. "They bring Sheets out and go empty a lot and just try and spread the box out for Durant so he has some running and throwing options.
"We have to rely on everybody doing their job. Everybody needs to stay in their role. We know who their highlight players are.''