Hansen coming back faster

They’re on different continents but have the same desire to continue playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The latest re-signings made by Blue and Gold general manager Kyle Walters are hometown receiver Nic Demski and German defensive end Thiadric Hansen.

Demski’s two-year contract was announced Tuesday and Hansen’s one-year deal was revealed Wednesday.

Demski, 27, was third on the team in receiving in 2019 with 44 receptions for 543 yards and three touchdowns in 17 games. He added 147 rushing yards and two more scores. Hansen, 28, was chosen second overall by the club in the CFL’s inaugural European draft and went on to finish his rookie season with five tackles, a sack, and two forced fumbles.

Demski wasn’t interested in testing free agency.

“My family’s here and I bought a house here so Winnipeg’s obviously always going to be home. But at the same time, this is just a great place to play with the atmosphere, the fans, and everybody in the locker room as well,” said Demski during a conference call Wednesday morning. “At the end of the day, football is a short-lived career so it’s all about opportunity as well… It’s a perfect fit.”

With the 2020 CFL season cancelled, Demski shifted his focus to starting a career in financial advising.

Hansen, on the other hand, found another opportunity to play football as he starred for Poland’s Wroclaw Panthers, one of the top teams in Europe, and helped them win the Liga Futbolu Amerykanskiego (LFA) championship. While the competition is nowhere near the CFL level, Hansen believes the experience will help him to succeed in 2021.

“I worked on my craft as a defensive end. I had a trainer there from the States and he taught me a lot. His name is Demetrius Eaton (a former player at Northwestern University) and he helped me with my defensive line technique,” Hansen told the Free Press in a phone interview.

“I feel great. I feel I’m more in shape and since I’ve played a year in the CFL, now I know how to prepare… I’m way faster than I was last year and I hope that will help me out a lot.”

Winnipeg Blue Bombers Thiadric Hansen, left, comforts Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans after the CFL Grey Cup in 2019. Hansen has signed a one-year deal with the Bombers. THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES/Jeff McIntosh</p>
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Winnipeg Blue Bombers Thiadric Hansen, left, comforts Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans after the CFL Grey Cup in 2019. Hansen has signed a one-year deal with the Bombers. THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES/Jeff McIntosh

Demski and Hansen made some big plays down the stretch in the Bombers’ run to the 2019 Grey Cup and they believe that’s only a sign of things to come. In three playoff games, Demski displayed his versatility by rushing for 75 yards and a TD in addition to making 10 catches for 117 yards. Hansen didn’t fill up the stat sheet in the playoffs, but he made his presence felt with a crucial tackle on a goal-line stand in the West Division final against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. In the Grey Cup, he levelled Hamilton Tiger-Cats kick returner Frankie Williams in the second quarter.

“Honestly, the year before in 2018, I felt like I didn’t do that great in the playoffs, to be honest. I felt like I kind of got lost in the moment a little bit,” said Demski, who spent his first three CFL seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders before signing with the Bombers as a free agent in 2018.

“So, in 2019, especially with the team we had and the season we had, I really wanted to lock in for the city and for my team as well. I felt I let them down the year before and I just wanted to go out there 100 per cent and be focused and make plays for my team.”

Demski added: “I think I have a lot more to give. I think what I was doing in the playoffs last year, I think I could do that consistently throughout the year. I think Winnipeg believes that as well, the Bombers, so that’s why it was a pretty easy decision for both sides for me to sign back here.”

Hansen is by far the best Global player in the CFL and has quickly become the face of the league’s initiative to grow the game overseas. CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has seen his fair share of criticism for his attempt at taking the league international, but Hansen is eager to have another season to show people why it’s an investment worth making.

“More and more people from Germany and Europe have college (football) experience. They play Division I college and it’s getting bigger and bigger,” said the 6-2, 243 pound Hansen.

“There’s gonna be a huge market of global players who are getting better and better… I’m confident I helped my team win and that I earned my spot on the team… Just watch me play and hopefully it (silences) the doubters.”

Walters’ list of pending free agents is now down to 26 names. Those who are not re-signed by Feb. 9 will hit the open market. While Walters was able to get one Oak Park High School alumni in Demski to sign, there’s still one more he needs to sign the dotted line: running back Andrew Harris. Other notable names in need of new contracts are kicker Justin Medlock, defensive back Brandon Alexander and offensive linemen Patrick Neufeld, Cody Speller and Geoff Gray.

Demski was asked if he had an update on his longtime friend Harris.

“I don’t know. I talked to him briefly and obviously, he congratulated me for signing and I kind of asked him where he was at,” he said.

“But I think that’s on him. I’m not really too sure with that, but I hope he definitely signs back with Winnipeg.”

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

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