Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ success story built on caring culture


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

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had been heading to Vancouver for a CFL playoff sport towards 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 had been late. She was driving,” Hardrick recalled after a latest follow. “I did not know what to do after I obtained 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 obtained there, I obtained out of the truck and O’Shea mentioned, `You go apologize proper now as a result of I do know you had been late and I’ve been late earlier than. I do know you mentioned some issues (to her) you did not imply to say.”‘

He and spouse Samantha have by no means forgotten that day, and consider it for instance of how the crew is sort of a household 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 mentioned with a smile.

“You know the way 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 household. Make positive issues at dwelling is sweet. That’s all the time caught with me.”

The Bombers, who misplaced that 2016 West Division semifinal towards the Lions, typically confer with the crew’s particular culture and the way they’re like a household.

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 closing at IG Field this Sunday.

Finding the right combination of expert gamers who purchase into the team-first culture did not occur in a single day, defensive deal with Jake Thomas mentioned.

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

O’Shea and common supervisor Kyle Walters had been employed in late 2013. The crew posted seven wins in 2014, 5 the following season and eventually hit double digits (11-7) in 2016.

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

“Usually the very first thing that comes out of fellows’ mouths after 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 outdoors work hours, whether or not that is Willie Jefferson internet hosting barbecues for the defensive linemen, linebackers going to an escape room or teams bowling or enjoying paint ball, Thomas mentioned.

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

Hardrick mentioned their children 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 obtained married on Jan. 2 of 2016 and he referred to as me Jan. 1 to want me greatest luck,” Thomas mentioned. “I had no concept what he was calling me for. I used to be shocked that he even remembered it.

“I obtained telephone calls and a few reward playing cards from coaches after I had my son in the course of 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 harm suffered in final yr’s Grey Cup that required surgical procedure.

Players additionally be sure a teammate is OK if he is coping with a household matter, Alexander mentioned.

“When you are right here, we’re all like open arms,” he mentioned. “Whatever you want, no matter it is advisable get by. Me, personally, I really feel prefer it’s greater than on the sphere.

“How do you set your physique on the road for anyone subsequent to you when you do not care about that individual?”

Jefferson noticed how a lot the crew cared for his household 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 crew worker had met her on the hospital to supply help.

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

The coach advised gamers to rapidly get on their constitution flight.

“To truly see coach O’Shea put ahead the hassle 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 may go.’ It simply reveals he cares. He’s a household 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 completely different right here,” mentioned 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 doable.

“Just the way in which that these guys care a lot about one another as individuals, after which care a lot concerning the crew success in comparison with particular person achievement. It is absolutely particular and it’s type of that household side.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Nov. 9, 2022.


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