Blue Bombers players credit head coach Mike O’Shea with instilling caring culture that puts family first

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It was 2016 and Jermarcus Hardrick was dashing to the airport to catch a flight.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been heading to Vancouver for a CFL playoff recreation in opposition to the B.C. Lions and the offensive lineman, in his first yr with the membership, feared the wrath of head coach Mike O’Shea if he wasn’t on time.

“My spouse was pregnant and we have been late. She was driving,” Hardrick recalled after a current apply. “I did not know what to do after I bought there and I used to be so scared and I used to be going insane, snapping (at her) the entire time.

“As quickly as I bought there, I bought out of the truck and O’Shea stated, ‘You go apologize proper now as a result of I do know you have been late and I’ve been late earlier than. I do know you stated some issues [to her] you did not imply to say.'”

He and spouse Samantha have by no means forgotten that day, and think about it for example of how the group is sort of a family from the highest down.

“My spouse all the time talked about it. She simply respects [O’Shea] a lot as a result of I most likely would not have talked to her all weekend,” Hardrick stated with a smile.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea jokes round with Jermarcus Hardrick throughout coaching camp earlier this yr. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

“You understand how marriage is. He simply understood that. That simply lets me know he will get it. He’s lived the life we’re residing proper now. It’s all about family. Make positive issues at residence is sweet. That’s all the time caught with me.”

The Bombers, who misplaced that 2016 West Division semifinal in opposition to the Lions, usually consult with the group’s particular culture and the way they’re like a family.

They level to that as one of many causes for his or her success, which incorporates back-to-back Grey Cup championships in 2019 and 2021 and the chance to three-peat after recording a franchise-best 15 wins this season (15-3).

This time Winnipeg is internet hosting the Lions (12-6) within the West Division remaining at IG Field this Sunday.

Finding the correct mix of expert players who purchase into the team-first culture did not occur in a single day, defensive deal with Jake Thomas stated.

The longest-serving Bomber endured the evolution over his 10-year profession, beginning with some lean years. There have been six wins in 2012 and solely three the next season.

O’Shea and normal supervisor Kyle Walters have been employed in late 2013. The group posted seven wins in 2014, 5 the following season and at last hit double digits (11-7) in 2016.

‘Guys truly care about one another’

“When I first bought right here, I do not assume guys spent as a lot time collectively as we do now,” Thomas stated. “Anytime you win, too, it makes issues higher.

“Usually the first factor that comes out of fellows’ mouths once they first get right here is simply all the things appears nearer and guys truly care about one another.”

Players get pleasure from one another’s firm exterior work hours, whether or not that’s Willie Jefferson internet hosting barbecues for the defensive linemen, linebackers going to an escape room or teams bowling or enjoying paint ball, Thomas stated.

Some teammates have even flown to Thomas’s residence in Fredericton, N.B., within the low season for a charity curling occasion he hosts, which advantages the town’s youth minor soccer and youth curling applications.

As blue-and-gold confetti falls all around him, Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick (51) hoists the Grey Cup in 2021.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick (51) hoists the Grey Cup after defeating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats within the 108th CFL Grey Cup in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. The Bombers shall be attempting to make their third consecutive journey to the Grey Cup recreation once they host the B.C. Lions this weekend. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Hardrick stated their youngsters attend one another’s birthday events, whereas Thomas famous his spouse, Sarah, went to a Backstreet Boys live performance with different wives this yr.

Thomas additionally skilled an O’Shea communication he is by no means forgotten.

“I bought married on Jan. 2 of 2016 and he known as me Jan. 1 to want me greatest luck,” Thomas stated. “I had no concept what he was calling me for. I used to be shocked that he even remembered it.

“I bought cellphone calls and a few reward playing cards from coaches after I had my son throughout the pandemic. It goes loads farther than simply soccer on this group.”

Plenty of teammates checked in on veteran defensive again Brandon Alexander whereas he rehabbed a knee damage suffered in final yr’s Grey Cup that required surgical procedure.

Players additionally be sure that a teammate is OK if he is dealing with a family matter, Alexander stated.

“When you are right here, we’re all like open arms,” he stated. “Whatever you want, no matter it’s good to get by means of. Me, personally, I really feel prefer it’s greater than on the sector.

“How do you place your physique on the road for any individual subsequent to you should you do not care about that individual?”

Jefferson noticed how a lot the group cared for his family a few months in the past.

The Bombers performed in Hamilton Sept. 17 and Jefferson’s spouse, Holly, was again in Winnipeg about to provide delivery to their second daughter. A group worker had met her on the hospital to supply assist.

It was O’Shea’s actions, although, that Jefferson actually appreciated.

The coach informed players to shortly get on their constitution flight.

‘He’s a family man’

“To truly see coach O’Shea put ahead the trouble to get everyone like, ‘Hey, sit down, let’s prepare,”‘ Jefferson recalled.

“Then as quickly as we land, he says to everyone, ‘Sit down, let Willie get his stuff so he might go.’ It simply reveals he cares. He’s a family man.”

When Jefferson arrived on the hospital, Holly began pushing and he noticed Rielley Rose come into the world.

Bombers receiver Dalton Schoen, the West Division nominee for CFL rookie of the yr, has been impressed since becoming a member of the membership.

“It’s 1,000 per cent totally different right here,” stated Schoen, who frolicked with three NFL golf equipment. “As quickly as I stepped in right here I used to be like, this culture is not essentially regular from what you see from skilled groups, however in the easiest way attainable.

“Just the way in which that these guys care a lot about one another as folks, after which care a lot concerning the group success in comparison with particular person achievement. It is actually particular and it’s sort of that family side.”

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