Morris: Bombers cherishing every moment on road to Grey Cup
CALGARY — Appearing in a Grey Cup is special for any player, but the 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw has extra meaning for Winnipeg Blue Bomber slotback Nic Demski.
The Winnipeg native hadn’t turned three yet when the Bombers last won the Grey Cup in 1990 with a 50-11 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos at BC Place Stadium. He was playing for the University of Manitoba and was named a Canadian Inter-University Sport second-team All-Canadian returner in 2011 when Winnipeg last appeared in the Grey Cup, losing 34-23 to the BC Lions in Vancouver.
Along with fellow Winnipeg native Andrew Harris, Demski understands the drought Bomber fans have endured and is anxious to quench their thirst.
“It means everything,” Demski said Tuesday after the Bombers stepped off a plane into the blowing snow at the Calgary airport. “With our history with the Grey Cup, it means a lot of be there.
“At the start of every year since I’ve been a pro in the CFL, that’s the No. 1 goal I want to reach. I want to get here, and I want to win it. To have this chance, I don’t want to waste it away.”
» Head to Head: Who has the edge in the Grey Cup?
» O’Leary: 5 storylines to keep an eye on
» Steinauer, O’Shea share similar paths to success
» Collaros’ long winding road takes him back to the Grey Cup
The Bombers will face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at McMahon Stadium. The Ticats last hoisted the Grey Cup in 1999.
“You have to really realize, even though it is a nine-team league, it really is a challenge to get here,” said Demski, who had 44 catches for 543 yards and three touchdowns in 17 regular season games. “You have to think about it.
“It does motivate you. Maybe that’s biased of me because I’m from Winnipeg, but it motivates me to get a Grey Cup here for sure.”
Bomber middle linebacker Adam Bighill was a rookie on the Lions’ 2011 championship team. He talked about the preparation needed to win the final game of the season.
“We got to this point for a reason, because of the process, because of how hard we worked,” said the two-time CFL Most Outstanding Defensive player. “You prepare to win.
“You don’t win the game on game day. You win the game on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4. There is nothing after this week. You put every once of energy you have into preparing for this week.”
A pre-season favourite to win the West, Winnipeg finished the regular season third with a 11-7 record. The Bombers started the season 6-2 but then faced adversity after losing starting quarterback Matt Nichols to a season-ending shoulder injury in an Aug. 15 win over the Lions.
The Bombers continued with Chris Streveler at quarterback, then obtained Zack Collaros in an Oct. 9 trade from Toronto. Collaros started the year in Saskatchewan but suffered an injury on the third play from scrimmage in the season opener against Hamilton.
Collaros and Streveler worked in a tandem as the Bombers went on the road to beat Calgary 34-14 in the Western Semi-Final then defeated Saskatchewan 20-13 last week in the Western Final.
Collaros agreed he’s followed a bumpy road to his third Grey Cup appearance.
“It was a different year for sure,” said the 31-year-old who completed 17 of 25 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown in the playoff game against the Riders. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be brought into Winnipeg.
“I’m really excited about this week and will cherish every moment.”
Collaros was a rookie on the Toronto team that won the Grey Cup in 2012. He led Hamilton to the 2014 Grey Cup which the Ticats lost to Calgary.
He said this year “he has more of an appreciation” for what it means to play for a championship.
Demski played different roles in the two playoff games. Against Calgary,t 25-year-old carried the ball three times for 53 yards and a touchdown. In the win over the Riders ,he had five catches for 72 yards.
Grey Cup week offers plenty of distractions, but Demski said he’s going to be all business.
“I may never even get here again,” he said. “I’m going to take it in, but at the same time I have to know what is in front of me and that’s a football game.
“We want to win this game. I’m not going to do anything that is going to risk that for my teammates.”
Bighill shrugged when asked about Hamilton being favoured on Sunday.
“We have not beaten Hamilton,” he said. “They are the only team in the league we have not beat.
“We have to go out and prove we are the best team in this league and take home the trophy.”
After winning twice on the road in the playoffs, the Bombers will be wearing their away uniforms again on Sunday, even though they are considered the home team.
“We knew we were going to have to be on the road all the way through to get this win,” said Bighill. “Why not wear the road unis one more time?
“It’s part of our focus, it’s part of who we are. Let’s go out there and do it one more time.”