The province of Saskatchewan already has made an impression on Zavian Bingham.
Now the 23-year-old product of Terry, Miss., is looking to make his mark on the province, on the Saskatchewan Roughriders and on the CFL team’s fans.
Bingham, a rookie defensive back, arrived in Regina on Friday. Late next week, he’ll head to Saskatoon to participate in the Roughriders’ training camp.
“It’s a different experience for me coming from the United States to Canada, but I’ll adjust to it,” Bingham said after a workout in the Roughriders’ training facility in Mosaic Stadium. “It’s going to be all right.
“Fans were telling me that there’s a lot of fishing and hunting up here. I fish and hunt, so I’ll fit right in with the mix. I’ve just got to get used to not being at home.”
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Bingham looked right at home on a CFL-sized field in late April during the Roughriders’ mini-camp in Vero Beach, Fla.
He had four interceptions and numerous knockdowns over the first two days — he missed Day 3 because he was graduating from college — and he showed throughout an ability to play tight man-to-man defence.
In other words, he accomplished his goals for the camp.
“I went to a smaller school, so I knew that the NFL doesn’t really look as hard at smaller-school guys,” said Bingham, who spent two seasons at Jackson State University after beginning his post-secondary career at Southwest Mississippi Community College.
“Going into that mini-camp, I had a big chip on my shoulder to show that I can play any type of ball at any level. I wanted to show off my talent.”
The camp was his first exposure to the CFL game and to the Roughriders, who had him on their negotiation list.
“I went down there and Coach (Chris) Jones and I talked,” Bingham said. “Then I learned some of the defence and it kind of fit me. Me and (Jones) saw eye to eye.”
Even so, Bingham and his agent thought an NFL team might select the speedy DB in that league’s draft. Bingham wasn’t picked, but the Baltimore Ravens indicated an interest in signing him as an undrafted free agent.
That transaction didn’t end up happening and his rights remained with the Roughriders.
The fact an NFL team was interested in him (and still could have its eye on him) is no longer on Bingham’s mind.
“Like my family said, ‘Go where you’re loved,’ ’’ said Bingham who, since arriving in Saskatchewan, has been interacting with Rider Nation on social media. “I’m a big fish in a small pond right now.
“I’m just ready to get this on the road and hopefully win a Grey Cup. That would be lovely in my rookie year.”
Of course, Bingham still has to earn a spot on Saskatchewan’s roster, but the off-season departures of defensive backs like Fred Bennett and Justin Cox would seem to suggest that Bingham has a legitimate chance.
He’ll have to prove himself at training camp against better players than he faced at mini-camp, so he’s hoping that spending more time with the Roughriders’ coaches will help his cause.
“I take on any challenge,” Bingham said. “As a DB, you’ve got to be cocky. You’ve got to have a high standard at that position. In camp, I know I’ll be going against veterans who have been here, who have been playing at least four or five years in this league and who know the waggle. The waggle is the hardest thing to cover in this league.
“With my speed, I’m not scared to get beat. As I go through camp, I’ll learn. Like I was telling one of the receivers, I’m willing to learn and go against the best.”
Bingham left mini-camp early to accept his degree in criminal justice from Jackson State — he hopes to become a U.S. marshal after his football career ends — in large part because he’s one of the first members of his family to graduate from college.
Cracking the Roughriders’ roster also would be a major accomplishment for Bingham.
“I’ve come to make my family proud,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of people behind me, a lot of people expecting me to do great things.
“Where I come from, not many people make it out of that environment, so I’ve got a big chip on my shoulder. I’m fighting for more than football.”