First & 10 | Lowes & Borsa reunited in Winnipeg

The signs of hope are very slowly trickling in now, from the numbers jumping in the vaccine rollout to so many people using social media to joyously declare they’ve been jabbed in the arm.

It would seem those much-needed signs of hope can come in various forms, too. Case in point, we give you Robbie Lowes and Kyle Borsa – two members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 2021 Canadian Football League Draft class and both from the University of Regina.

“Kyle is one of my best friends and we always talked about the possibility of ending up in the same spot,” said Lowes, a linebacker, in a chat earlier this week with bluebombers.com. “Obviously the chances of that happening were basically slim to none. Still, we talked about how cool it would be to live together and get to play on the big stage together and chase our dreams together. So, for this to actually happen… it’s crazy.”

“Robbie and I became super close, especially through the pandemic,” added Borsa. “It’s like we’ve gone through some adversity and the whole CFL process together. We push each other to be the best as possible. I’m so happy to be going there with a guy that I’m close with and start this next chapter of professional football with him. We’re both so excited.”

There’s an infectious enthusiasm that has flowed from every conversation with the Bombers’ draft picks over the past week or so, whether it be Liam Dobson and Redha Kramdi, to Patrice Rene, Lowes and Borsa. (FYI: we haven’t chatted with Shae Weekes yet, but hope to soon).

To a man, they gushed about being drafted, about simply having an opportunity to fight for a roster spot and about taking the next step in their careers. And, frankly, having those chats has helped offer a bit of a boost to yours truly, too.

I mean, Lowes and Borsa were jacked up just thinking about piling in to Lowes’ 2010 Ford Escape to make the drive from Regina to Winnipeg whenever the date for training camp is confirmed.

“Kyle gave an interview to (TSN/CTV’s) Claire Hanna here in Regina and said I’d be doing the driving and he’d be controlling the aux (music),” Lowes explained with a laugh. “Well, I’m completely fine with that, but I might be controlling that aux chord a little bit, too. It’s a quick five-six hour drive and it’s going to be about the experience of doing that with one of your best friends.”

“We’ll be fighting over the music the whole ride, for sure,” added Borsa. “But I WILL be in charge of the aux chord.”

Go ahead and accuse us of being melodramatic, but there’s something about the stars aligning here with the unbridled enthusiasm that comes from people like Lowes and Borsa combined with the new start the vaccines are giving people.

And it’s only grown further for all of the Bombers draft picks since the draft earlier this month.

“On draft night, after I had been picked I was just trying to deal with all the phone calls and crazy stuff and all of a sudden my mom said, ‘Kyle’s going to Winnipeg, too,’” said Lowes. “He called me and I could hear the excitement in the background with his family. After I spent a couple of hours talking on the phone to my relatives and friends I went over to his place and we had a couple beers together.”

It hasn’t been easy over the last year or so, clearly. Those two, like so many, had their 2020 U Sports seasons wiped out by the pandemic. But now – finally — some optimism is on the horizon.

“There’s been so much adversity and so many negatives with football lately is finally nice to have some good news associated with it,” said Borsa. “We’re just so excited to get over there. It’s a nice breath of fresh air, finally.”

“It’s been tough. You almost come to expect the worst over the last little while,” Lowes added. “It’s like we became desensitized and you don’t want to get your hopes up about anything. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel now and from what we’ve heard it’s promising that we will have a season this year. It’s going to get back to that normal and working toward goals without these distractions.”

More from Lowes and Borsa and other notes and quotes in this week’s edition of 1st & 10…

1. Both Lowes and Borsa had an inkling the Bombers might be where at least one of them landed. The Bombers were the first team that Lowes interviewed with before the draft. Plus…

“I knew there was some interest because (Bombers defensive coordinator) Richie Hall lives in Regina and he played football with my defensive backs coach, Ventson Donelson,” explained Lowes. “He’s always around our practices and talking to our coaches and I think there’s a good relationship built there.

“Just from the interview and talking to Kyle and Coach O’Shea, I got a really good feeling from that. I heard from my agent that it was a good interview. Even after all the interviews I had in my head that that was the place I wanted to be.”

2. The Bombers and how they approach the pre-draft one-on-one interview has, almost inadvertently, become a talking point after the draft. Over and over again the draft prospects have said, unprompted, about how well their interviews with Winnipeg went. And so I asked what was different about how the Bombers handled things.

“I felt that Winnipeg was my best interview,” said Borsa. “The coaches and Kyle Walters were so personable and easy guys to talk to. I felt like I could be myself with them. Some of the other interviews felt a little intimidating and you had to put a face on for them. With Winnipeg there was a comfort level.”

“I think they are unique,” said Lowes. “Looking back at it, Coach O’Shea was a linebacker who had an unbelievable career and the two of them (including Walters) really seem to relate with the players in the way they ask questions in a positive manner while getting to know each other. It was definitely a unique interview that stood out. Both Kyle and I came away from our interview with Winnipeg and thought it was our favourite interview of the whole process.

“Just from the questions they asked and talking about the game, whether it be the Xs and Os or your training I think you can gauge how excited someone is about football. It’s not just playing the games. It’s how excited you are for your practices or to go train every day, to make it a full-time job. That’s one thing they seemed to look for and it’s one thing I’m very passionate about – the whole process behind working to become a better player and help compete for championships.”

3. One more from the Rams-turned-Bombers…

Naturally, we had to inquire about how being drafted by Winnipeg will play in Regina with their friends and family.

“Nobody was bummed. Everybody was pumped,” said Borsa. “They’re all Rider fans, but they also understand that Winnipeg is a good fit for me. They understand the CFL and know this couldn’t be better.”

“There’s a lot of cool aspects to it,” said Lowes, chiming in with his take. “A lot of people here are supportive of the players from Saskatchewan, even if they’re cheering against the team you’re on. That’s what makes it special.

“In terms of the rivalry, sure, it’s awesome. Kyle and I have a lot of friends who sit in the Pil Country cheap seats at Mosaic Stadium. We’re hoping that you’ll see a lot more blue and gold in those seats going forward.”

Added Borsa: “We’re hoping there will be a couple rows of blue there in the future.”

4. Bombers D-lineman Thiadric Hansen isn’t just the face of the CFL’s global initiative, he’s a helluva player who has become a big deal in European football circles.

Evidence of that came this week when the Cologne Centurions announced his signing.

“Thiadric will be playing for us with an opt-out clause for the CFL in his contract,” said Centurions GM David Drane in a press release. “When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers need him to report to camp he will have to leave us, but until then he can help the Centurions win. He is one of Europe’s top players and we are very pleased to have him on board.”

Hansen played last year in Poland with the Wroclaw Panthers, helping them win a championship.

5. Congrats to the 110 players chosen by the CFL and U Sports for the East-West Bowl roster spots. The pandemic means there will be no game this year – it’s usually held in May – but the players have been identified as top candidates heading into their draft years.

You’ll see many of their names in the three upcoming CFL Scouting Bureau Top 20 Prospects list, unveiled in the fall, winter and next spring leading up to the 2022 CFL Draft.

Among that group are three Winnipegers: DL Cole Adamson and DB Marcel Arruda-Welch, both of the University of Manitoba Bisons, and Saskatchewan Huskies RB Charlie Ringland. Also on the list is Manitoba LB Nick Thomas, who is from Surrey, B.C.

A good read on some of the prospects courtesy Chris O’Leary of CFL.ca, who leans on TSN CFL Draft guru Duane Forde for some insight.

6. While we’re passing out bouquets, here’s to the 12 Manitobans chosen to receive the Order of Manitoba – the province’s highest order – this July. Two of them have connections to the Bombers – former president Lynn Bishop, who also served as CEO of Winnipeg International Airport and Kyle Irving, the co-owner of Eagle Vision.

Kyle, FYI, is the son of Bombers play-by-play voice Bob Irving – who has also received the Order of Manitoba – and, naturally, is a diehard of the Blue and Gold.

7. Yours truly is a massive baseball fan and, like so many diehards of the game, marvel at the work of Shohei Ohtani of the LA Angels, who continues to do amazing things as a pitcher and a hitter.

All of this had me thinking, which Bombers player might be best suited to play both offence and defence? Sure, it’s unlikely to happen, but it’s a good topic to throw out there for discussion.

My vote, for what it’s worth: defensive end Willie Jefferson. Picture him, for example, sacking a quarterback and forcing a fumble then staying on the field with the offence and running a quick out as a slotback near the end zone… I mean, what DB could get up there to knock the ball out his massive mitts?

Discuss amongst yourselves and let me know your votes, either via email – etait@bluebombers.com – or via twitter @EdTaitWFC.

8. Like all radio types who love this league, Jamie Nye always has the CFL front and centre in Regina on CJME. He also writes occasionally for CFL.ca and this prediction piece was a good read.

9. All this chatter about a possible CFL and XFL merger has prompted some, shall we say, ‘healthy’ conversations. And for those who are for abolishing the rouge, Don Landry has some interesting points here – including some insight from Troy Westwood, the Bombers all-time scoring leader.

10. And, finally, let’s all do our part to get vaccinated so that we can return to so many of the things we love – including being outdoors at Blue Bombers games, or having a cold one together… undoubtedly while watching the Blue Bombers on the road.

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