November 13, 2017

Marcus Thigpen is on quite a run

The Saskatchewan Roughriders Marcus Thigpen (8) is chased by the Ottawa Redblacks Patrick Lavoie (81) during first quarter eastern semi-final CFL action in Ottawa on Sunday, November 12, 2017. (CFL PHOTO - Patrick Doyle)

OTTAWA — Kevin Glenn wants his cut.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback certainly could be deserving of payment after playing a key role in the CFL team landing running back/returner Marcus Thigpen in September.

On Sunday, Glenn’s matchmaking paid off handsomely, as Thigpen rushed 15 times for 169 yards and a touchdown in Saskatchewan’s 31-20 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks in the CFL’s East Division semifinal.

“I’ve got to get a percentage from him since he’s back playing so well,” a chuckling Glenn said after Sunday’s triumph.

Thigpen began his CFL career on the Roughriders’ practice roster in 2009, but he was released prior to the 2010 season. He signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and spent two seasons with them before taking his considerable returning skills to the NFL.

After four seasons in that league, Thigpen was out of football by 2016. But this summer, after seeing an Instagram post about Glenn surpassing 50,000 passing yards in his CFL career, the 31-year-old Thigpen sent his friend a note saying he had the urge to suit up again — and to do so with the Roughriders.

“At that moment, I wanted to play with (Glenn),” said Thigpen, who knew the quarterback because (a) they’re both from Detroit and (b) they were teammates in Hamilton.

“I wanted to get that unity back. Me and K.G. played together, we’ve got history, so I wanted to be on the same team with him.”

There are other Roughriders with whom Thigpen has a history.

Receivers Rob Bagg and Chris Getzlaf are among the players who were with Saskatchewan when Thigpen first came north, while offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski, slotback Bakari Grant and defensive tackle Eddie Steele were among those who were in Hamilton when Thigpen joined the Tiger-Cats.

Their presence, along with others whom Thigpen knew previously, helped the decision-making process.

“Once he found out who was on the team, I think that made it even more appealing to him,” Glenn said. “He was out of football, so he could have reached out to anybody. He had other people he knew, but the relationship we had is something special.”

Where Thigpen landed in the CFL was an easy decision. Why he decided to return was equally simple.

“Honestly, I feel like I stopped playing too early and I felt like I still had a lot left in the tank,” he said. “I was still running track with my high school coach — I was going to (compete in the) Masters Division, where it’s 30 and up — so I knew I still had the speed. I stayed in the weight room. I knew I had the size and the strength for it.

“I just felt like I missed it and I wanted to come back.”

After getting Thigpen’s note, Glenn went to Roughriders head coach-GM Chris Jones, who was intrigued with the idea of bringing the speedster aboard.

“(Glenn) came in and said that (Thigpen) had reached out to him and I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” Jones recalled. “I asked (Glenn), ‘Has he been working out? Is he in any kind of shape? Can he still run?’ — all the questions that you’d ask for a guy who has been on the street.

“K.G. said (Thigpen) had been doing all those things, so we brought him in and it wasn’t very long until we could see he still had some juice.”

The Roughriders signed Thigpen to the practice roster on Sept. 12 and activated him for their game Sept. 15 against the host Tiger-Cats. He had three punt returns for 77 yards in that contest, but injured a collarbone on his third return.

He spent the next six weeks on the injured list before returning for Saskatchewan’s regular-season finale Nov. 4. With Cameron Marshall and Trent Richardson slowed by injuries, Thigpen started at tailback — and he didn’t disappoint.

He rushed seven times for 32 yards and one touchdown, caught two passes for 31 yards with one TD and returned one kickoff for 53 yards against the Edmonton Eskimos. After the game, Jones called Thigpen “the most dynamic player on the field.”

In the days leading up to the East semifinal, Jones said Saskatchewan would deploy its healthiest tailback — and that turned out to be Thigpen.

He again delivered, ripping off a game-changing 75-yard touchdown run that turned a 21-11 third-quarter lead into a 28-11 advantage.

Thigpen’s showing Sunday helped the Roughriders earn a berth in the East Division final, which is set for Sunday in Toronto against the host Argonauts.

His play to date could keep him in the lineup for that contest even if Marshall and/or Richardson is ready to return — but having a choice isn’t a bad problem for the Roughriders to have.

Thigpen admitted Sunday was “a very, very emotional day” for him, even though it was his third appearance of the season.

The notion of starring in a CFL playoff game likely was a long way from his mind after his NFL career ended, so turning in an effort like he did Sunday had his emotions going full speed.

“As soon as we’re done (with the media), I may go in and pout a little bit,” he said with a smile. “(They’d be) happy tears.

“To be in the position that I am right now, to come back from being at home for two years and being able to have the success that I’m having right now is definitely a blessing.”