They were bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived and, perhaps, still somewhat primed. And through every moment of Wednesday night’s Grey Cup celebration at IG Field, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers just couldn’t stop grinning – over and over and over again.
“The sleep comes at a premium right now. It’s a constant celebration, as it should be,” said Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill. “It’s a lot of appreciation and everything with your teammates as you spend time together and reflect on the season… the stories, the feelings, and how much you appreciate each other.
“Tonight, celebrating here in front our fans at the stadium is going to be a big part of helping it sink in. I still don’t feel like it’s there for me yet. I still don’t realize that we don’t have to line up and practice next week. This is going to be big celebrating with our fans and it will go a long way to really feeling it. Back-to-back is here. It’s come back to Winnipeg.”
The team returned from their 108th Grey Cup win in Hamilton on Monday and then settled into further celebrations as a team on Tuesday. And Wednesday.
“It’s been a party every day. It’s been fun,” said defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. “It’s been fun celebrating with the guys. I love this group. That’s the big thing that Osh (head coach Mike O’Shea) would talk about – we play for the love of one another and so to be able to celebrate each other, show each other that we love each other and have fun and do crazy stuff… it’s a lot of fun.”
“I’ll be 100 percent honest, I still don’t think it’s sunk in yet. It’s wild to me. It’s going to hit me soon. It’s just going to be like, ‘Wow’ and I might shed some tears. It’s all the work that we put in for this, even separately and then when we came together, it’s been so much. It’s been a rough year. It’s been hard. At times I was deciding if I even wanted to still be playing or am I going to have to retire after this year? What am I going to do? And then I just quieted that noise in my head and then just focused on this, this and now and started to be happier with the situation and then we started getting things going and we were starting to get ready to play our first game and we took it on from there. We just got better each week.”
A handful of Bombers got together in the last few days to re-watch Sunday’s overtime win in offensive coordinator Buck Pierce’s office, including quarterbacks Zach Collaros and Sean McGuire, running back Andrew Harris, receiver Drew Wolitarsky, defensive tackle Jake Thomas and running backs coach Pete Costanza. Pierce spoke about that, and in the camaraderie of this particular edition of the Bombers.
“For this team and the way we came out of the pandemic and all the restrictions and everything that was in place for the CFL… it’s pretty special,” said Pierce. “It’s a special group to do what we did. We should celebrate this. It’s an amazing achievement. I’m so proud of the guys. And the fans deserve this. As a Winnipegger, which I call myself now and I’ve been here for over a decade, it’s pretty special.”
There will be roster and personnel decisions to get to ASAP. Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has already started that process with exit interviews and some players had already left town before Wednesday’s celebration. Yet the last couple of days have been more about living in the moment than about the business of the game.
“It’s a good time… the coach-player idea sort of melts away right at those moments and you just enjoy a beer with the guys, listen to stories and just pay attention to how they’re interacting and the emotions of it all,” said O’Shea. “These guys have really been taking the time to still get to know each other and still learn more about each other. It’s very fascinating, it’s very worthwhile and it’s the way it should be done.”
O’Shea was asked to weigh in on all the passion he’s felt from Blue Bombers fans – through messages, text messages, and interaction through things like the Coach’s Show on CJOB.
“When I went to university, I wanted to become a brewmaster and I wanted to become a brewmaster because I had so many memories of the neighbours sitting around the dock having a beer and it seemed like all good times to me,” O’Shea said. “So, you brew beer and people usually have a good time socializing like that. I’m now in a different profession. I’m not a brewmaster. But if you say that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers give people a lot of joy, then I’m in the right business doing the right thing.
“You look after the Western Final,” O’Shea added, “and they are definitely the loudest fans in the league and after that Western Final they’re now the toughest, too, because to sit around that long and you see them sitting in the end zone and the whole stadium going nuts They’re a big part of it and all our players respect and really understand how valuable our fans are to us. In a fan-driven league they’re ultimately very important and we have the best in the league, for sure.”
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