First & 10 | Oliveira itching to play

Brady Oliveira can point out the exact location where it happened and often marks the spot with a mental ‘X’ whenever he is running at IG Field.

It was almost two years ago now – June 27, 2019, to be exact – when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back suffered a leg injury in the club’s home opener before being carted off the field on a stretcher.

And although he worked diligently with the Bombers’ training staff to get back to the practice field later in 2019, that play – coming on a kickoff return in the second quarter in a win over Edmonton – was his last snap.

Couple that with the global pandemic that cost the Canadian Football League the entire 2020 season and, well, maybe you can get a feel for how eager the Winnipegger is to get back at it.

“I’m not sure there’s anyone hungrier than me to getting back on the field right now,” began Oliveira in a recent chat with “I just want to get back on the field and play ball. It’s my love, it’s my passion, it’s my joy. I work extremely hard. I’m not afraid to say it, I won’t let anyone outwork me. That’s part of why I’m so hungry. I know everyone is itching to get back but, c’mon, man, no one can be more hungry than me.

“I work out twice a day. I get all my workouts in, all my runs in. My nutrition is on point. I get at least eight hours sleep every day. I stretch every day before I go to bed… I’m doing everything because I know my potential and my ability. I believe in myself. It’s not so much that I want to get back to the field to prove anything to anyone; it’s that I want to prove it to myself that I belong here and can do well on the field for the city I’m from.

“I can’t wait to get out there and play in front of my mom, my family, my friends.”

The Bombers’ second-round draft choice, 14th overall, in the 2019 CFL Draft, Oliveira remains an intriguing piece with the league inching toward a 2021 start. A star at North Dakota after playing his high school ball at Oak Park, Oliveira earned All-Big Sky Honors in 2016 and 2017 and was a finalist in 2019 for the Jon Cornish Award – presented annually to the top Canadian player in college football.

Listed behind Andrew Harris and Johnny Augustine on the depth chart when ’19 opened, Oliveira had carved out a place on special teams to start his career. And then…

“From what I remember it was just such a freak accident,” he said. “I ended up at the bottom of a pile… me being a running back, I’ve been at the bottom of a pile thousands of times in my career. But this one time with how my leg was and how I was landed on it, it just happened.

“Now, whenever I run at the stadium it’s hard for me not to remember it and where it exactly happened. I’ll be doing my speed workouts on the field and I know exactly the spot where I went down.

“You know,” Oliveira added, “my mindset is ‘everything happens for a reason’. It’s crazy to say, but I guess I was supposed to break my ankle. I had lots of time to think, lots of time by myself. I’ve learned a lot about myself.”

Asked to expand on that – what he learned about himself – Oliveira offered a healthy perspective that belies his 23 years.

“The main thing is you never know how long a professional career will last,” he said. “That was my rookie season and I played one regular season game and then in the second game I go down with an injury that could have been potentially career-ending.

“It made me more open-minded to life in general and to not let this sport consume me. Everyone has so much to offer. Don’t get me wrong: this is my life, this is my joy, this is my passion. And I put everything into it. With that being said, I don’t want to be defined by the game of football. I want to be seen as someone who gave back to youth and to the community. I want to be seen as a good person.

“So when I went down with the injury and was bed-ridden for a bit there were some dark days. But I had a great support system and as the days went on I started to realize people have it a lot worse out there, (the injury) could have been a lot worse, so just be thankful and appreciative it happened early in my career. I’m young and I’m healthy and have bounced back even better.

“I woke up today, I’ve got another 24 hours, I’m healthy, my family’s healthy… I just try to take everything day by day. Life is good on my end.”

More from Oliveira and other notes, quotes and links in this week’s edition of 1st & 10…

1. Oliveira discovered something else about himself during his forced time away from the game last year.

“I’m really a nature guy now,” he said with a chuckle. “I love being outdoors. I love being with my dogs. Before it was just train, train, train – which I still do now, but I definitely take the time to let my mind rest by going for a hike with my dogs.

“I never really was a big outdoors-y person. Yeah, I was active, but I was never one to go on hikes or go camping or anything that would take me off-grid. I’ve unlocked that about myself. And so when the season was cancelled last year I was lost at first. I had never had a summer off before for multiple years, even in high school when you are training for football.”

Discovering this new passion, Oliveira opted to buy a box camper and then headed west with his girlfriend Brittany and two dogs, Nellie and Gunnar. One trip turned into two, then three as they headed to Canmore, Golden and Revelstoke.

What he discovered along the way is how therapeutic truly getting away from it all could be for both his mind and soul. That may sound hokey, but it worked for Oliveira.

“Being on the road, being in the mountains… that turned out to be my happy place, especially with so much negativity in the world,” he said. “There’s still so much goodness out there. I know people see all the bad stuff on social media, on TV and in other media, but there’s still so much good in the world.

“It was 100 percent therapeutic. To get off the grid, to have no service on your phone… you forget about all your social media and everything else in the world. It was just me, my girlfriend and my dogs. The mountains were right there, the water was right there… everything was just so pure. It was total joy.

“It’s all about perspective, having an open mind and not having your career consume you. That’s when it becomes unhealthy. I look forward to making many more trips out there after I retire – hopefully that’s in like 10 years or something.”

2. One more from Oliveira…

Over the last year and a half the man has done a lot of work with K-9 Advocates Manitoba – the not-for-profit organization started in 2015 by First Nations nurse Jasmine Colucci. Oliveira went on a rescue mission with a friend from the organization in January of 2020, and instantly became hooked on helping. His Instagram page is dotted with videos of the work the organization has done.

“Ever since that first rescue mission and I go pretty much once a week. I’ve been extremely busy with it,” he said. “I’ve had people from all over the world follow me on this and that’s why I want to help raise awareness about being a good pet parent.”

We told you the story last year of Oliveira’s rescue of a woman and her dog at Maple Grove Dog Park and this video on The Dodo’s IG page now has almost 1.8 million views.

3. A healthy Oliveira gives the Bombers a great deal of Canadian backfield depth – plus, it means the club might be less likely to go American at the position when Andrew Harris retires.

Consider that there is Harris – one of the greatest running backs in CFL history, regardless of citizenship – and he is backed up by Johnny Augustine, who filled in so capably for two games in 2019, Oliveira and 2021 CFL Draft pick Kyle Borsa from the University of Regina.

The club also has two Americans on its current roster in Joshua Caldwell, who had looks from Chicago and Kansas City after playing at Northwest Missouri State and former Washington State star James Williams.

4. Two thumbs up from this perch for the Edmonton Football Team’s rebranding to ‘Elks.’ The logo and helmet design are fantastic and keeping the green and yellow colour-scheme was important, too.

A good piece here from Global Edmonton on the name change and logo design.

And, as per usual, a clever response from our social-media team on Twitter:

5. Perhaps providing further evidence of the growing hunger for football all over the globe, the USFL is relaunching in 2022.

6. Still difficult for yours truly to wrap my head around the fact there will be two Stanley Cup champions declared since the Blue Bombers last played a game, but so be it.

In the meantime, it seems Willie Jefferson and Alouettes QB Vernon Adams, Jr. have the NHL playoff spirit – as evidenced by their appearance earlier this week on CBC.

7. ICYMI, superb piece by Tim Baines of Postmedia on Ottawa RedBlacks O-line coach Bob Wylie, who did two tours with the Bombers and is one of the true charaters in the CFL.

This quote might just perfectly capture the man:

“It’s a big planet, you ain’t going to see the whole thing. But you want to get in as much of it as you can before you go. You want to make sure you’ve done and seen a lot of things. You go hot-air ballooning. You go white water rafting. You go mountain climbing in the Rockies. You go to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. You go to the top of Pikes Peak. It’s wonderful the things out there you can do. I’ve been in 49 of 50 states, every province in Canada, I’ve been to 15-plus different countries. I look at life like you don’t want to be sitting in a rocking chair when you’re 86, saying ‘God, I wish I’d done that.’  I did all that stuff.”

8. An update piece on ’21 Bombers draft pick Patrice Rene, who is settling in well with Rutgers and will play this season there after transferring from North Carolina.

9. Congrats to the three former Blue Bombers who are among the 78 players named on the 2022 ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame – quarterbacks Matt Dunigan and Michael Bishop and defensive end Pete Catan.

Also nominated was former Bombers head coach Darryl Rogers.

10. And, finally, let’s keep the vaccination train rolling, people

Evidence of three more Bombers – Drew Desjarlais, Nick Taylor and Jermarcus Hardrick – who are doing their part.

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