It was 2016 and Jermarcus Hardrick was dashing to the airport to catch a flight.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had been heading to Vancouver for a CFL playoff recreation towards the B.C. Lions and the offensive lineman, in his first 12 months 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 observe. “I did not know what to do after I bought there and I used to be so scared and I used to be going loopy, 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 had been late and I have 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 examine it for example of how the group 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 in all probability would not have talked to her all weekend,” Hardrick stated with a smile.
“You know the way marriage is. He simply understood that. That simply lets me know he will get it. He is lived the life we’re dwelling proper now. It is all about household. Ensure issues at dwelling is sweet. That is all the time caught with me.”
The Bombers, who misplaced that 2016 West Division semifinal towards the Lions, usually check with the group’s particular tradition 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 Gray 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 last at IG Area this Sunday.
Discovering the correct mix of expert gamers who purchase into the team-first tradition 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 common supervisor Kyle Walters had been employed in late 2013. The group posted seven wins in 2014, 5 the subsequent season and at last hit double digits (11-7) in 2016.
‘Guys truly care about one another’
“Once I first bought right here, I do not suppose guys spent as a lot time collectively as we do now,” Thomas stated. “Anytime you win, too, it makes issues higher.
“Often the very first thing that comes out of men’ mouths after they first get right here is simply every thing appears nearer and guys truly care about one another.”
Gamers 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 taking part in paint ball, Thomas stated.
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 the town’s youth minor soccer and youth curling applications.
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 12 months.
Thomas additionally skilled an O’Shea interplay he is by no means forgotten.
“I bought married on Jan. 2 of 2016 and he referred to 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 through the pandemic. It goes quite a bit farther than simply soccer on this group.”
Loads of teammates checked in on veteran defensive again Brandon Alexander whereas he rehabbed a knee damage suffered in final 12 months’s Gray Cup that required surgical procedure.
Gamers additionally ensure a teammate is OK if he is coping with a household matter, Alexander stated.
“Once you’re right here, we’re all like open arms,” he stated. “No matter you want, no matter you could get via. Me, personally, I really feel prefer it’s larger than on the sphere.
“How do you set your physique on the road for anyone subsequent to you for those who do not care about that particular person?”
Jefferson noticed how a lot the group 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 offer beginning 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 instructed gamers to shortly get on their constitution flight.
‘He is a household man’
“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 is 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 12 months, has been impressed since becoming a member of the membership.
“It is 1,000 per cent completely different right here,” stated Schoen, who hung out with three NFL golf equipment. “As quickly as I stepped in right here I used to be like, this tradition is not essentially regular from what you see from skilled groups, however in one of the best ways potential.
“Simply the best way 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’s actually particular and it’s type of that household facet.”