- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) - In the first 24 hours of free agency, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers signed seven players to their roster. One of them was Wahpeton’s native son Ryan Smith. After finishing the second and final year of his contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Smith decided to give free agency a try. Winnipeg and Saskatchewan both presented the CFL wide out with tempting deals and Smith believed the Blue Bombers made the better offer.

“It was a little hectic. It started on Tuesday at 11 a.m. and we kind of went back and forth with Saskatchewan from the time the season ended to the start of free agency and negotiations kind of came to a halt,” Smith said. “When free agency started, we started talking to Winnipeg and they had the best offer so we went with them. It was a good decision.”

The former North Dakota State University standout is looking forward to change, but admitted saying goodbye to Saskatchewan was difficult, Wahpeton Daily News (https://bit.ly/1QqSQN5 ) reported.

“I have a lot of good friends in Saskatchewan and leaving the players you’ve played with the last few years is the toughest part,” Smith said. “It’s a business and you have to make the best decision for yourself, unfortunately. This is the one time you can be selfish in football.”

The 5-foot-7 Smith will see plenty of his former team in years to come, as the Blue Bombers also reside in the West Division.

“We’ll play Saskatchewan three times every year. We face them back-to-back weeks around Labor Day weekend and one more time during the year,” Smith said. “We’ll see what happens. It’s going to be a different and kind of weird experience (playing against Saskatchewan), especially going there. At the end of the day you’ve got to know it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against.”

One of the players Smith doesn’t have to regret leaving behind is fellow Saskatchewan WR Weston Dressler, who also signed with Winnipeg. The former Rider receivers are looking forward to continue giving defensive backs fits in the same receiving corps.

Along with Dressler, Winnipeg also signed a couple other big-name players and a new offensive coordinator.

“They signed Weston Dressler and two pretty big American guys,” Smith said. “I think Wes and I are going to fit in really well with their system in Winnipeg. They hired a new offensive coordinator, also. I’m excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun to play with all of these new teammates.”

On paper the Winnipeg fans know they’re getting a wide receiver who finished his sophomore campaign with 991 yards and seven touchdowns (along with a catch that was voted Canadian Football League’s Play of the Year). But if you ask Smith, he’ll tell you he’s ready to put in the work to bring those numbers up.

“If I could tell the Winnipeg fans anything, I’d say I’m going to work my butt off for them and that it doesn’t matter who I line up against because I’m going to give maximum effort every single play,” Smith said. “I want to help this team win to the best of my ability. With my skill, my attitude and my competitiveness, I bring a lot to the table.”


Information from: Wahpeton Daily News, https://www.wahpetondailynews.com

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