New adventures for defensive star

Gaels defensive lineman Derek Wiggan lives out dream playing for the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders

Derek Wiggan has played nine games in the CFL so far.
Derek Wiggan has played nine games in the CFL so far.
Supplied by Calgary Stampeders
As the CFL season begins to wind down, one former Gael is prepping for the playoffs with a first-place team.
Derek Wiggan — a former Gaels standout defensive end — has found himself in the thick of the playoff hunt playing for the Calgary Stampeders.
During his time at Queen’s, Wiggan was at the heart of the team’s defense. During the first four years of his career, he played in 32 games, amassing 65 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 27 tackles for losses. He was selected a first-team OUA all-star in 2012 and 2013 and participated in the 2013 East-West Bowl. 
These efforts helped Wiggan rise up the CFL draft, being ranked as high as 14th by the CFL’s Scouting Bureau. In the 2014 draft, Wiggan was selected 34th overall by the Calgary Stampeders.
After performing strong at training camp with the Stampeders, Wiggan returned to the Gaels for one final year to work on his defensive technique.
While the team would struggle during his final year, finishing with a 3-5 record and missing the playoffs, Wiggan continued to shine. In eight games, he made 36 total tackles (12 for loss) and led the team with 5.5 sacks. He led the OUA with four fumble recoveries and was selected as a second-team OUA all-star.  
To prepare for his second training camp with the Stampeders, Wiggan changed positions on the defensive line. Instead of playing on the outside, Wiggan trained to be a defensive tackle, the position the Stampeders envisioned for him when he was drafted.
“The major transition for me was the strength of the offensive-line at the CFL level — they are much stronger than the CIS level,” Wiggan said. “At my first camp with Calgary, I was 250 lbs. — so I was getting pushed around a bit.”
During his time as a Gael, Wiggan was considered one of the quickest defensive linemen in the OUA, which helped his draft stock rise. While he needed to gain weight to be successful at his second training camp, Wiggan knew that he didn’t want to lose his speed. 
“I needed to gain weight and not lose my explosiveness,” Wiggan said. “I trained very hard and ate right to put on the weight I needed in a healthy way.” 
For Wiggan’s second camp, he arrived weighing in at 270 lbs. 
“I was able to handle (the camp) a whole lot better,” he said.
A strong performance at camp earned Wiggan a roster spot with the Stampeders in July.
Currently, the Stampeders are first in the CFL West with a 9-3 record. When asked how it feels to be a part of the playoff hunt, Wiggan described it as an unbelievable experience.
While most rookies struggle with the magnitude of professional football, Wiggan credits former Gaels Defensive Coordinator Pat Tracey with making the adjustment easier.”
Coach [Tracey] gave me a pro mentality,” Wiggan said. “You show up to practice, meetings and have your notebook ready, take notes and make sure you understand everything.” 
“It’s pretty much the whole program [at Queen’s] that brings a professional attitude to football, so once I reached [Calgary], I was already used to the professional atmosphere.”
When asked what he misses most about his days in Ontario, Wiggan’s biggest adjustment has been related to food.
“They don’t have a Chipotle out here,” he said. “Other than that the city is pretty great, there are a lot of Queen’s alumni that are in Calgary, so they have helped to ease the moving process.”
With a team filled with veterans, Wiggan has been pushed down the depth chart.
Though he isn’t the star anymore, the former Gael will continue to work in hope of becoming one at this level.
“Whatever role I’m given, I try to complete with all my effort,” Wiggan said. “Even though I’m not a starter, I prepare as if I am one.”
“That’s one of the things I learned from Queen’s, always prepare to be ready. When the time comes for me to be the guy — if someone goes down injured or for whatever reason — I will be ready to go.”
While it’s still relatively early into his CFL career, Wiggan couldn’t be happier in his rookie season. 
“When you’re growing up playing, you see the guys on TV playing, and you hope to be there one day,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy for me. I’m still pinching myself that I’m playing professional football.”

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