After a successful season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL, former Queen’s football star Rob Bagg is ready for more. Bagg dressed in all 17 of the Roughriders’ games last season and started 11, including their playoff loss to the B.C. Lions in the West semifinal. He recorded 22 catches for 371 yards and was named the CFL’s Canadian Player of the Week in October.
He said he’s hoping to make a larger contribution to the team this year.
“I was happy, but not satisfied with what happened last year,” he said. “I started the last 10 games of the year which was kind of above my expectations going into the year. I felt good about the way I left last season and I’m looking forward to going back this year.”
Bagg had a chance to play with the Roughriders in 2007 after signing with them as a free agent, but decided to return to Queen’s for his fifth year of eligibility. The Roughriders went on to win the Grey Cup that year, but Bagg said he doesn’t regret his decision to come back to the Gaels, who lost in the first round of the playoffs.
“I don’t lose any sleep over it,” he said. “Looking back even just one year into the league, you realize how difficult it is to win a championship and obviously they did that while I wasn’t there, but at the same time, I felt very happy with my decision to come back to Queen’s. … It worked out for me, and I’m still young, so I’ve got a lot more football ahead of me and I’m looking forward to playing it out.”
Bagg graduated with a geography degree in the spring of 2007, but was able to finish his history minor by coming back to Queen’s for the extra year. He said that additional academic work may be helpful down the road.
“I sure hope it is,” he said. “I went to university hoping it would get me ahead a little bit.”
Bagg spends his offseasons in Kingston, where he purchased a house with his fiancée. He’s working part-time as a bartender while training and helping out with the Queen’s football team. He said he’s hoping to join the Kingston Police once his football career ends.
“I’ve kind of started looking down that avenue, talking to a few people,” he said. “Unfortunately, from what I’ve heard, I can’t really get started on that until I’m done football. They really need you the whole way through. You can’t kind of do it off and on. That’s something that interests me and would allow me to stay involved in the community.”
For now, Bagg’s focus is football. He said playing in the CFL has been quite an adjustment.
“It’s kind of like an all-star game every day,” he said. “It’s the best players from every university in Canada, the select few that make it, and then it’s really the top all-stars, not all Americans, from the United States that have at one time or another spent time in the NFL. The quality of play is certainly a good head above the CIS level.”
The Roughriders have a strong crop of young Canadian wide receivers, including David McKoy from the University of Guelph, Adam Nicholson from the University of Ottawa and Chris Getzlaf from the University of Regina. Bagg said he has to strike a balance between being friendly and competitive with them.
“It’s kind of a Catch-22; you want to be good friends with them, but at the same time, they’re competing for the same job you have,” he said. “They’re all great guys and great football players, and it’s fun being around those kind of guys.”
Bagg said keeping a job in the CFL requires being on top of your game at all times.
“In a sense in the CFL, I think it’s more cutthroat,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past; if you’re not the best player at any given moment, then you lose your job very quickly. It’s all about performing when you’re asked to. Every year, it’s kind of a fresh start and a fresh opportunity.”
Bagg said he doesn’t mind the competitive atmosphere, though.
“There’s not a ton of job security, but at the same time you just come to the understanding and the realization that you’re doing something that a lot of other people want to do and you should just be grateful for the time that you can do it,” he said. “Eventually, you’re going to get replaced; that’s just the business of it, but if you keep working hard you can hopefully play for a few years.
The Roughriders have a couple of established Canadian stars in former Western Mustang Andy Fantuz and former Regina Ram Jason Clermont, who was recently signed as a free agent. Bagg said he’d love to follow in their footsteps with a long CFL career.
“They’re both really talented players,” Bagg said. “There’s no question they’ve done great things. … If I could play anywhere from six to 10 years, that would be ideal.”
Bagg said he loves the fan support in Regina.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “I don’t think the passion is the same anywhere else as it is in Regina. They tailgate, they know each player by name. You’re definitely a face in the community that is recognized. They just love the game out there. It’s really fun to play for a crowd that’s so involved and excited about what’s going on with the team.”
Fan support makes him optimistic about the future of the CFL, Bagg said, despite a rash of doom-and-gloom predictions in the last few years thanks to the NFL’s games in Toronto.
“People have been trying to say for decades now that the CFL’s going to fade out,” he said. “I think the league’s very strong right now. There were sellouts across Canada in every stadium we played in. I really don’t think the CFL’s going anywhere.”
Please see next week’s Journal for the third installment of the Gaels One Year Later series.
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