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WINNIPEG — Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Drew Willy is preparing to face his former cohorts for the first time this Thursday when arch rivals, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, pay a visit to Investors Group Field.
Most former players would have this game circled on their calendar, but for Willy, it represents just another game on his schedule.
“(I am) just taking it the same as we’ve been doing it every single week,” said Willy. “Obviously, I know a lot more people on that team than other teams, but yeah, just another game.”
Willy knows better than anyone the challenge that lies ahead for the Blue and Gold in Week 7. The team he suited up for as a backup from 2012-13 had plenty of success in his time there, most notably last season in their Grey Cup triumph.
“We know that they have a good team, good coaches. It’s just a great organization,” said Willy. “We are preparing very hard, we had a really good day at practice, which is always good and positive, so we are just looking forward to the opportunity of playing them. It’s going to be fun.”
With Willy now in the spotlight of one of the CFL’s biggest markets, his experiences learning from Darian Durant have been called upon to help him deal with the pressures that come along with it. Pressures that, by all accounts, he has thrived on.
“You really can’t worry about that stuff, you just have to go about your business and just really focus on what you can control as a quarterback,” Willy said. “I’ve seen the good and the bad that comes along with playing in certain markets, but that’s what you want, you want passionate fans. If we didn’t have fans we wouldn’t be playing the game that we love.”
The relationship he forged with Durant in Regina will last a lifetime, but this Thursday in Winnipeg, it will take its rightful place on the shelf for a few hours.
“We probably won’t talk this week,” said Willy, who is usually in regular contact with his former teammate. “We will probably say ‘hello’ before the game, but we love to compete. I know he is a big time competitor as well, so we are both going out there to try and lead our teams to victory.
“He’s been good to me, we’re really good friends. I have nothing but respect for him. We’ll be friends even after football ends, whenever that is for the both of us.”
Willy’s calm, robotic-like demeanor has earned the praise of his teammates, especially in clutch situations like last Friday’s last-second, 94-yard, game-winning drive, in Hamilton. He has also made narrowing down one or two of his best qualities a tough proposition for the people around him.
“There’s a lot of them,” said Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “To name one… I think he knows himself. I think his best quality right now is that he knows himself very well and allows himself to be who he is. He is comfortable with that. He works extremely hard at being the best he can be.”