It was not that long ago that Winnipeg was not the place to be…no I do not mean the winter months, nor our 3rd and 4th spring. There were years, in recent history that Winnipeg was not a place CFL players wanted to sign with.
But that all changed under the drastically needed culture shift of Bomber’s President & CEO Wade Miller, the Bomber’s General Manager Kyle Waters and the Bomber’s Head Coach Mike O’Shea.
Since 2019 Willie Jefferson has been telling players:
Winnipeg is a place that players now want to come and play for the hometown Bombers and will even take a pay cut to come here.
One guy ecstatic to return to the Bombers this year is receiver Kenny Lawler who was part of the Bomber’s 2021 Grey Cup winning team. You can check out his full interview here.
Another great way to see how invested guys are to come and play for an organization is how they show up to training camp. Long gone are the days where Day 1 of training camp is the first day players start to get into shape. There is an expectation that players show up to training camp in shape and ready to go.
A lot of the guys showed up in pretty darn good shape and seem to be happy about being on the field playing football.Mike O’Shea
What should not be missed in this conversation is that the fans play an important role in players wanting to come to Winnipeg. Back in January of 2022 Willie Jefferson credited Winnipeg fans as a reason why he loves playing here saying,
“When I stepped out into the community, it was always a bum-rush type of thing. Nobody wanted to give me my time to deal with my family when my little girl was small since I had to focus on her,” said Jefferson regarding his tenure with the Riders.
“When I went to Winnipeg, people gave me my space. They would wait. If anything they would stand back and wait and let me handle what’s going on with my wife and my daughter and then be like, ‘Hey, I saw you doing that, I’m sorry that I stood over here and waited but could you please (sign an autograph or take a picture)?’” said Jefferson.
“I’m more than happy, more than willing. You took the time to step back and let me handle what I had to handle. I can step over here and be with you now and give my all to you as a fan and I appreciate that.”https://3downnation.com/2022/01/08/willie-jefferson-appreciates-patient-winnipeg-fans-after-bum-rush-in-saskatchewan/
But it is not just the star names that want to come to Winnipeg, and that is a good thing. While there are names that the fans are more familiar with, the reality is that it takes many players to win! Even outside of the “next man up” mantra, there are 12 men on the field executing their assignments who do not get a lot of camera time but who are intrinsically important to helping a team win.
With this kind of culture, Winnipeg should be competitive for years to come.
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