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EDMONTON — When you’re six-foot-seven and close to 350 pounds it’s hard not to be noticed, but it’s something Shane Bergman has managed.
When there’s a discussion of the CFL’s best offensive linemen Bergman’s name often isn’t mentioned. It’s something the Calgary Stampeders’ big left guard doesn’t lose sleep over.
“It’s a good thing,” Bergman said as the Stampeders prepared to play the Ottawa REDBLACKS in Sunday’s 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw. “When my name is called it means someone got hit that I shouldn’t have let get hit, or on an offside, like I did last week.”
“Not many people know me. I’m not one of the first-round picks. I’m not a big-name guy. I just do my job. I make sure my quarterback and running back are clean.”
Bergman is technically sound and efficient in his game. The 28-year-old moves quickly for a large man but isn’t flashy in what he does and doesn’t draw a lot of attention to himself.
That makes him a perfect offensive lineman in head coach Dave Dickenson’s opinion.
“If you don’t notice an O-lineman, lot of the time he’s doing a hell of a job,” said the former quarterback. “He’s, to me, a real person. There is nothing fake about him.
“He’s just very steady. Great person. Damn good football player.”
Bergman is an important cog in a Stampeder machine that led the league with a 13-5 record. He was a was part of an offensive line that helped generate 482 points and 56 touchdowns (both second best in the league), while allowing a CFL low 27 sacks.
“It’s just preparation,” Bergman said about his role. “Making sure I know where I’m going every single play.
“It’s just not me, it’s our five guys playing as one.”
Bergman doesn’t mind if the spotlight shines on other players. He’s content knowing his contributions make a difference
“I take a huge amount of pride in my game all the time,” he said. “I play with my name on my back for my family and this horse. I just want to play to the best of my ability all the time.”
In six seasons with Calgary Bergman has never been recognized as an all-star, something that mystifies quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
“I never really understood where the disrespect came for him,” said Mitchell, who threw for over 5,100 yards and a league-leading 35 touchdowns this season. “He’s a very selfless guy. He’s an absolute all-star in this league and a dominant player and I don’t think he’s ever been given that credit.”
Offensive tackle Derek Dennis called Bergman “a silent beast.”
“He gets overlooked because he’s not as ferocious as some other guys in the league, where they are just running around and belly flopping on people, throwing them around,” said Dennis, voted the league’s top lineman in 2016. “He goes about his job every day, he does it well.
“He doesn’t do a lot of hooplas or a lot of roaring. He just goes out there and does what he’s good at.”
Bergman might be a victim of his own success. He makes what he does look too easy.
“He’s a technician,” said Dennis. “He may get overlooked because he’s so technical and so smooth in his movements.
“For a guy his size, he moves extremely well. He gets overlooked because he makes it look very easy sometimes.”
Bergman grew up in Teeterville, Ont., a small farming community 45 minutes southwest of Hamilton. He attended the University of Western Ontario and was selected in the sixth round, 48th overall, by the Stampeders in the 2013 draft.
He showed up for his first training camp weighing in at 355 pounds. That was 40 pounds lighter than he had been the previous year. Then, after his first season Bergman lost more weight and now plays at around 345 pounds.
“In 2013 I wasn’t fast enough to start,” he explained.
Bergman’s wife is a dietician and helps him managed his weight.
“She told me what to eat — when to eat,” he said.
For most of his life, Bergman has dealt with a condition called pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the lining around the heart. It can cause chest pain and accumulation of fluid around the heart.
Two years ago the condition forced Bergman to miss some practices, but he’s been symptom-free since.
“It’s not a concern,” he said. “It’s not a thing I have all the time.
“When it comes on, I can feel it. I take the meds, take a couple of days off, and usually, it goes away in a week. I know what the symptoms are. I just take care of it.”
Dennis is impressed with Bergman’s attention to detail and the way he studies the game.
“It’s made him a better football player,” he said. “As the years have gone on since he started playing, he does nothing but get better every year.”
Bergman won a Grey Cup with Calgary in 2014. He also was part of the team that suffered back-to-back upset losses to Ottawa and Toronto. A win Sunday would help ease the frustration and disappointment of those two losses.
“It means everything,” said Bergman. “You start taking things for granted . . . and you end up not winning.
“It’s harder to win this game than you think. You have to keep grinding.”