It doesn’t matter if Brady Oliveira is training at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ facilities at Princess Auto Stadium or if like right now, he’s on the other side of the world in Bali helping to rescue dogs. The freshly re-upped star tailback — he signed a two-year extension on Tuesday that’ll keep him in his hometown team’s colours through 2025 — is driven by doing his part to help his team win more Grey Cups.
As dominant as he’s been since taking over the starting job in 2022, though, Oliveira is yet to lift the Grey Cup above his head. The Bombers were stopped in the championship game the last two seasons, first by the Toronto Argonauts and then the Montreal Alouettes.
“I think about that a lot,” he told reporters on Wednesday, when he was asked about not being able to win a championship as the team’s starter.
“This off-season when I’m training it’s always in my head, all the time. I want to be a massive part of why this team wins championships, not just one championship; championships. I want to be a massive part in that.
“When it comes down to legacy I think you look at guys and how many championships they’ve won is one thing but were they a massive part in winning those championships?”
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He looks at his predecessor in Winnipeg, Andrew Harris, and sees a player that had a big hand in all four of the Grey Cups he won in his career.
“That’s exactly what I want to do,” Oliveira said. “I’m hungry. I’m hungrier than ever. It’s in my mind. We’ve just got to take that out on our opponent every single week and and just finish this thing off the right way this year.”
To be fair, Oliveira may be selling himself a little bit short. His 2023 campaign was an all-time great one in CFL history. He led the league in rushing with 1,534 yards, racking up the second-best total by a Canadian in league history, behind Jon Cornish’s 1,813-yard 2013 effort. Oliveira led the league in yards from scrimmage (2,016) and touchdowns (13). He had a league-high seven 100-yard rushing games and was a no-brainer for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Player award. He was also the West Division nominee for Most Outstanding Player, was named a CFL All-Star and named a West Division All-Star. That followed up the first 1,000-yard rushing season of Oliveira’s career in 2022.
From a rushing, catching and blocking perspective, there may not be a more impactful single player on a roster in the CFL. Just 26, he feels he still has room to grow, too.
“I truly know I am just scratching the surface right now. I know I can do a lot better,” Oliveira said. “I’d like to be utilized more in the pass game and just ultimately help my team win games. I’m hungrier than ever for this upcoming season and going to just do my best to compete every single day and be one per cent better and just try and go bigger and better this year this season.”
Tuesday was a big day for the Bombers. When the wave of the news of Oliveira’s extension began to simmer down, the team hit fans with the news that star receiver Dalton Schoen had also extended his contract, keeping two players in the top five of CFL.ca’s top 30 pending free agents rankings out of the open market.
“Dalton and I chatted a couple of times a week, the last month throughout this process, kind of trying to figure things out and ultimately knowing that we wanted to be back together,” he said.
While the team has reportedly lost offensive tackle Jermarcus Hardrick to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Bombers have kept four of last year’s starting five offensive linemen in place. While Hardrick is a loss, Oliveira is confident the team can fill the spot and continue to shine offensively.
“That’s a big role that we got to fill and I’m very confident in the organization. The scouting department does an incredible job every single year of of just finding diamonds in the rough and guys that can come in right away and play,” he said. “I do think we’re in a very good position. We have lots of guys that have been in the building for a couple of years now that are very smart football players.
“Our offensive line coach Marty (Costello) does an incredible job preparing them every single week, starting or not starting and for an opportunity like this in case the time does come and it looks like the time is going to come for some young guys to step in there. They’re ready.”
Oliveira sees running back dominoes ready to fall
News of Oliveira’s signing came in close succession with a report that AJ Ouellette will take his talents from the Toronto Argonauts over to the Saskatchewan Roughriders as a free agent. Oliveira was just as surprised as many other observers of the CFL when he saw the news.
“There’s going to have to be a shift when a solid back like AJ leaves Toronto and they’ve got to fill that void now so I think now you’re going to see a domino effect.” Oliveira said.
He also said that he and Ouellette had been in touch over the last few weeks as they each sorted out their respective football futures.
“(Ouellette) is a guy that I have mad respect for,” he said. “There’s lots of guys in this league that play the position the right way and he plays it the right way. He’s physical, he can do it all. We were chatting throughout this whole process. Seeing him go to Sask, getting a significant pay raise as well is awesome. I’m very happy for him.
“I think you will start to see a domino effect (in free agency) now. Toronto’s got to fill that hole. They lost an incredible back in my eyes. I mean, the guy’s a stud and if I was Toronto I would have kept him. But Sask got a really good back now and it’s going to be fun competing against him in the West.”