Although fans of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers celebrated their long-awaited Grey Cup victory Sunday night, the historic win was even more meaningful for one local educator.
Football coach Stu Nixon, who coached Bomber stars, Andrew Harris and Nic Demski, when they were students at Winnipeg’s Oak Park High School, told 680 CJOB it was hard to put his feelings into words after watching two of his former charges hoist the CFL’s top prize.
“It’s very special. I don’t know if you can explain the feeling, just a heart bursting with pride,” said Nixon.
“Those guys played phenomenally. Play after play of exceptional football. I’m feeling very happy for those guys. They’re very special people. Very driven.
“A wonderful example for other kids that you teach that have that potential. They’re a huge inspiration to a lot of people, so yeah, I’m very proud.”
Nixon said he watched Harris’ season, in particular, with great interest. The Bombers running back, who was named both Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Canadian in the Grey Cup game, faced adversity earlier in the season.
Harris was suspended for two games for violating the CFL/CFLPA drug policy – a charge Harris continues to deny.
Nixon said while he doesn’t know all of the details of that situation, he trusts Harris and sees the victory as a sort of validation for the player.
“I think he’s doing everything he can to improve his career within the rules,” he said. “He kind of got snowed over somehow, but he’s got a lot of integrity, that guy.
“I know enough about Andrew to know that he’s not a cheater, and people who accuse him of that, that’s only going to add fuel to Andrew’s fire. I don’t doubt his integrity… I’ve got his back, no matter what.”
For kids who are too young to remember the last Bombers’ last Grey Cup victory – way back in 1990 – Nixon said the 2019 championship could serve as a catalyst to encourage more youth to play the sport and gives them some homegrown heroes to look up to.
And for Oak Park students, Harris and Demski aren’t the only Cup-winning alumni. Injured Bomber running back Brady Oliveira is also an Oak Park grad.
“There’s so much the game has to offer kids. When you use it as an educational tool and a tool to help map kids’ future decision-making and direction in life, then it becomes significant,” he said.
“Without it, it’s just a game… a fun game, but not worth putting all that time into it.”