Geoff Gray isn’t your typical football player.
No seriously, just ask the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman what he’s researching for his master’s of science in mechanical engineering degree and you’ll see.
“What I work on is computer simulation for multi-fitted flow problems. So, what I’m looking at is an airlift pump which is used in a number of different industrial applications but basically it’s looking at you have a column of water and you’re going to inject air at the bottom and that creates a buoyant effect which creates motion. So, it’s studying that and looking at the physics of what’s occurring in that,” Gray explained to the media after Sunday’s training camp session at the University of Manitoba turf field.
There may be nearly 90 players currently in training camp, but good luck finding another one with a passion for, or an understanding of, airlift pumps.
“Like with anything, the further you go in school, the more specific, the more niche the knowledge gets,” Gray said.
“But I like to think I can kind of get a general explanation, a rough idea of what I’m doing, if they’re interested, but I generally don’t go into too much detail.”
He used the cancelled 2020 season to hit the books, but Gray’s hitting defensive lineman these days. The 26-year-old Winnipeg native is gearing up for his second full season with the Blue and Gold. Chosen eighth overall by his hometown club in the 2017 CFL Draft, the Bombers had to wait a while before they could see Gray as the University of Manitoba Bisons standout was signed by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent. The Packers ended up releasing Gray at the end of camp, allowing the New York Jets to jump in and sign him to their practice roster. The Cleveland Browns signed Gray off New York’s roster, but wound up cutting him in August 2018. Gray returned home and joined the Bombers on Oct. 15, 2018.
In his first full season in the CFL in 2019, Gray made 12 starts, but was on the injured list for the final five weeks of the regular season. He was on the roster for the West Division final against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but was a healthy scratch in the Grey Cup game as Drew Desjarlais and Patrick Neufeld were holding things down at guard.
“Obviously, it would’ve been great to have dressed for that game, but I had lots of good games that led to that, being in the Grey Cup, so that’s kind of how I think about it. Obviously, I would’ve liked to have been dressed and would’ve liked to have played, but I’m not bitter about it in any way,” he said.
“I’m really just motivated to improve myself. The outcome of a previous season has never really influenced me in one way or another in my preparation for the next.”
But even though Gray was a first-round pick and has some NFL stops on his resumé, he has his work cut out for him to land a starting gig as Desjarlais and Neufeld are back for 2021. Neufeld missed the first 12 games of 2019 due to injury but he’s healthy this time around.
“I think you can look at it in two different ways. You can look at who’s in front of you, or you can look at your own play and where you want to improve and the latter is what I focused on,” Gray said.
“So, I know I have areas I want to work on and that’s really where I was focused. And the year off with COVID, you never really know how things could shake out. So, I think the big thing was I wanted to be in shape the best as I can (be)… and really just focus on improving the things that I want to work on coming in from 2019 so that was really how I approached this season.”
Gray would have a much better chance at playing time elsewhere, and he’d also have no shortage of suitors, but he re-signed with the Bombers on a one-year deal for 2021. Head coach Mike O’Shea can sleep a bit better at night knowing he has no shortage of reliable Canadian offensive lineman at his disposal.
“He’s very smart and I’m sure he doesn’t make rash decisions. He’s a local guy that’s highly educated and likes it here,” O’Shea said.
“When he played for us in 2019, he did a fantastic job and as we got guys back, healthy, he didn’t play as much. Those were tough calls I had to make, but I think the communication was decent with Geoff. I’m glad he has chosen to be back here.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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