Ryan Phillips defies logic. In his 11th season in the CFL, the perennial defensive threat tied for a league-leading six interceptions for 83 yards, including a pick-6, and trust us, he shows no signs of slowing down.
“You’re going to see some competitors on the field in 2016. My guys are fired up,” says the DB who’s eager to get back on the field and lead a corps of talented young backs like T.J. Lee and Ronnie Yell. For another two seasons, he’ll do just that.
The Lions made a strong move last week, signing the long-standing vet and fan favourite to a two-year extension, keeping him in Orange through 2017. For Phillips, the chance to finish out his career in BC under returning head coach Wally Buono, the same coach who brought #21 to The Den, makes the 2016 season one for the books.
“He’s a guy that doesn’t baby you or take excuses,” says Phillips of his no-nonsense coach.
He’ll put you in the best position to win but you have to put the work in. No one’s happy with last season but Wally is the kind of guy that will make you ask yourself what you could have done better.”
For an experienced leader like Phillips, the trust that Buono has given him over the years to be that veteran voice among the DBs is a difference maker.
2016 also holds the possibility of another milestone for the decorated Lion. With 46 career picks, Phillips sits four shy of the 50 mark.
“I want to get that,” Phillips says. “Barron Miles always told me that 50 is the magic number.” With six seasons in his 11-year stint posting four or more interceptions, including a staggering 12 in 2007, the magic number is in sight.
The self-proclaimed “best dancer on the team” says he’ll have something special planned if he reaches his goal. “For me, it’s all about the team,” he says with a smile. “I wouldn’t be where I am without them. If I reach it and I do a celebration for my 50th pick I want the whole team involved.”
We’ve been sworn to secrecy…but we can say Phillips has promised to try to “pull Wally from the sidelines.” This we need to see!
WATCH: Phillips scores Pick-6…dances like no one is watching
The Mack Truck
When Adam Bighill makes a tackle, you hear it, and we mean you HEAR it. From the top of the stands you can hear the initial contact followed by the collective “ooohhhh” of the crowd at BC Place and the ensuing cheers. He gets you off your feet, and he just seems to keep getting better.
In 2015, Bighill experienced two firsts: his first Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award, and the birth of his first child, a boy, Adam Junior, born the day before the Western Semi-Final against the Calgary Stampeders. You can call him Littlehill.
His MODP acceptance speech at the Player Awards was heartfelt. “They can measure your speed and size, but not your heart,” he told the crowd. Few play with the kind of drive and dedication Bighill does each and every game.
“2015 was the best year of my life on a personal level, and also one of the hardest for our team,” says the Lions’ linebacker, who lead the league with 117 tackles. He’s hungry to get back, get better, and prove himself to the team and the fans.
“Any year you don’t make the Grey Cup, you fall short,” says Bighill. “I want to run faster, hit harder, tackle better and be a better leader.
“Basically outwork the competition until there is none,” he says with a smirk. Trademark Bighill quote, for the record…. We’re working on the patent.
With the expected return of his Team 100 counterpart, Solomon Elimimian, for the 2016 season, you can bet that the hard-hitting LB will be at the top of his game once again and eager to take the reins of the defence as the two reunite to form arguable the most formidable linebacker duo in the league.
WATCH: Bighill adresses the media after winning the MODP award
Season 6 of the Manny Show was announced in mid December and BC Lions fans were thrilled to have the big-play wide receiver back for another two seasons.
The fifth-year Lion went on a tear the last half of 2015, racking up 655 yards and six touch downs in just seven games.
He finished the season with 1151 yards and nine TDs, the highest output of his career and good enough for third in the league in receiving yards and tied for second in receiving TDs…back flipping and ball tossing the whole way.
“I like to put on a show for the fans,” says Arceneaux about his style of play. “They’re paying to be entertained, and we can give that to them.”
Putting on a show means putting on as a team as well, and like Bighill and Phillips, the big-bodied receiver isn’t happy with the results in 2015, and if anyone is fired up to get back, it’s #84. It’s a common saying around the Lions facility: no one works harder than Manny.
“I hold myself and my team to a high standard,” he says. “My work ethic will never change, but for me, the 2016 season is all about the guys around me, the Gores, the Iannuzzis. It’s the most fun for me when my teammates are successful.”
Also like Phillips and Bighill, Arceneaux is looking to take on that leadership role in 2016. He’s ready to be the voice for younger receivers like Bryan Burnham and Stephen Adekolu.
Under Buono, he knows he’ll get the chance to be a leader. “He’s one of those coaches who expects you to go out and do your job,” he says.
Also adding fuel to Arceneaux’s fire in 2016 is the chance to team up with QB Jonathon Jennings again. The two connected for some serious highlight reel-TDs in 2015 and the chemistry the young gun had with his #1 target was undeniable.
“I said in passing camp, ‘man, that Jennings kid throws a nice ball’,” he says, with his signature Manny laugh. “His style of play, being mobile and being able to make reads and stuff, that will make us a contender. He makes the game exciting and gives the fans something to see.”
WATCH: Jennings finds Arceneaux for 84 yards…and a stiff arm to boot!
With key veterans locked down in the last few weeks and free agency set to open in February, the Lions are poised, focused, and hungry to get back on the field in 2016.
As Manny Arceneaux puts it: “I came back to make a Cup run with my team.”