Tobi Antigha might not have any clothes that fit him anymore, but he seems to be fitting in on the defensive line just fine.
The 24-year-old was trying out for the Riders in December as a receiver but, as luck would have it, the team didn’t have many defensive linemen there, so head coach Chris Jones asked some of the players on offensive to try some pass rushing.
Antigha stuck out.
“He had that natural ability to pass rush,” Jones said. “I knew that he probably couldn’t make our team as a receiver with the people we had coming so that’s when he made the switch.”
However, the switch required more than just a position change for Antigha. He was asked to put on about 20 to 25 pounds in order to even be considered as a defensive lineman.
“I did that and came back in January and pretty much from there I made my way down to mini-camp in Florida,” he said.
Putting on 25 pounds in a month was no easy task though. Antigha wanted to make sure he was putting on healthy weight.
“It was definitely difficult process trying to put on the right type of weight, not sloppy weight, but weight I could actually move around in but once I got the weight back and started moving around I felt really comfortable and I was confident coming into training camp.”
And the more he learns the more confident he’s becoming. He said he never imagined himself on the defensive side of the football, but he had to go where the opportunities were, even if it wasn’t the one he was expecting.
“He was one of the only coaches out there willing to give me chance, so I had to take him up on his offer,” Antigha said, adding he now prefers defence to offence.
“Getting after the passer is definitely a fun feeling.”
Antigha is also getting noticed by his coaches for his ability to learn the defence quickly. Defensive line coach Ed Philion said coaching Antigha has been easy because he’s so smart.
“Tobi just picks stuff up, he’s like a sponge, you tell him once and he picks up our defence so now you can focus on technique, which he’s not accustomed to,” he said.
Philion is used to coaching up receivers and CFL rookies by now. Last year, the Riders brought in A.C. Leonard, another former receiver, to play on the defensive line and he turned into one of the team’s best pass rushers. Now entering his second year in that position, alongside Jonathan Newsome and CFL veteran Willie Jefferson, Philion said the defensive line is set to look a lot better.
“The more you see (the game) the slower the game becomes for you and I think that’s where we’re at right now,” he said.
For a team that was in the basement for most of the defensive categories, it’s encouraging for Philion to see where they are now.
“We needed a lot of work, last year it was a challenge for us and I think we’ll be a lot better this year,” he said.
And perhaps Antigha will be a part of that, if he shows as well in the preseason game as his coaches say he has in camp.
Though in the meantime, he’d probably just settle for a pair of pants that fit his new weight.
“I just wear sweats and gym short all day,” he said with a laugh. “That’s really just the biggest challenge is finding clothes that fit.”