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Blue Bombers’ Drew Wolitarsky can’t wait to return to Winnipeg

Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky (82) celebrates a touchdown with receiver Nic Demski (10) during first half CFL action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky (82) celebrates a touchdown with receiver Nic Demski (10) during first half CFL action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina. (CFL PHOTO - MATT SMITH)

Drew Wolitarsky may not be the world’s most interesting man like the guy in the Dos Equis beer commercials, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers fourth-year receiver just might be the CFL’s coolest cat.

The 25-year-old Santa Clara, Calif., native has quickly become a fan favorite for his clutch receptions to move the yardsticks and keep offensive drives alive. The former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher has also become a popular interview subject for the media because of his, well, interesting takes on just about every question that gets tossed his way.

Wolitarsky is currently on a “no time table attached” road trip that began two weeks ago from his hometown, north of L.A.

First stop — Phoenix, Ariz., to see his buddy Chris Streveler who signed as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals in the off-season. “As I was pulling into Tempe, my car engine light goes on. Great. So I take it to the mechanic. Luckily Strev was about 30 minutes away, so he comes and picks me up,” Wolitarsky told the CJOB Sports Show on Thursday night. “We go out on some great hikes, hang out and catch up. Turns out to be a great four-day trip because the mechanic can’t figure out what’s wrong — but finally does. It’s fixed now, so good job by him.”

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From Phoenix, Wolitarsky made his way to Albuquerque, N.M., but only stayed there a short time because he was not a huge fan of New Mexico’s largest city. His “great adventure” took him to Nebraska, on to Denver, Col., to visit an uncle where he shot guns in the mountains and ate way too much steak, and then finally to Minneapolis.

“I just decided I wanted to get closer — and closer to friends out here — and be able to go up to Winnipeg if I get the call at any time,” is how Wolitarsky explained his itinerary.

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Whenever that call does come in, the 6-foot-2, 226-pound receiver, who is also a talented writer and musician, will be bringing some fresh material with him. “I’m just waiting for the border to open up so I can play music at Earl’s, and  I need to work on my album. I have a bunch of songs ready and I want to go record with my guy at Studio 11. That’s who I was working with before.”

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Wolitarsky was born in California and played all of his football in the United States prior to turning pro. But his Mom is originally from Montreal, Que., so that’s how he gained national status by CFL standards and was eligible for the Blue Bombers to select in the 2017 Supplemental Draft.

Wolitarsky played just five games in his rookie season while learning the Canadian game, but dressed for all 18 games in his first full season and became a valuable member of the receiving corps with 45 catches for 650 yards and five touchdowns.

His production dipped a bit in 2019 with 33 receptions, 361 yards and four touchdowns. But that had just as much to do with Winnipeg’s No.1 ranked ground game and ball control offense, as well as a mid-season injury to starting quarterback Matt Nichols.

During the playoffs Wolitarsky caught pretty much everything thrown his way, hauling in eight passes for 118 yards — with many of those catches allowing the Winnipeg offense to improve on their time of possession stats.

Coronavirus outbreak: Sports leagues allowed to begin training camps in New York
Coronavirus outbreak: Sports leagues allowed to begin training camps in New York

Wolitarsky is the first to admit, the coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge for him mentally. “It’s tough because I’m a huge connector. I love to talk to people, I love to be intimate. I love to share, I love to play music, I love to hang out — just vibe with people” said Wolitarsky on Thursday night when he was asked how he was handling social distancing and not being able to be at training camp.

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“I’m trying to be more active on social media, trying to share more that way. I never was around social media that much before so I’m trying to do what I can to keep in contact with people and trying to be there to support people who are stressed out or fearful of what’s to come.”

READ MORE: Winnipeg Blue Bombers add pair to roster as team prepares to re-open club facilities

And who knows what’s to come of the 2020 CFL season? But Wolitarsky says he has been training all year round and trying to remain optimistic, despite the roadblocks that keep popping up.

“We got the news that we weren’t going to start until June, and now it’s September. It’s kind of strange to not know what’s going on. The beauty of it is, we’re in shape so at least we look good doing it. That makes it kind of worthwhile, even if there isn’t a season.

“If your job is to work out, what a great job. You’re getting paid to look good. That’s beautiful man.”

Listening to Wolitarsky, creativity comes through loud and clear. But surprisingly, neither the experience of his Grey Cup Championship season nor going through COVID-19 have influenced the list of potential tracks for his forthcoming musical album. “I’ll be real with you man. I have more songs inspired by my recent breakup than those two things. I think past the Grey Cup was when I really tried to get into that creative side. When you’re in the season it’s very tiring –you’re kind of using all the energy you have. You’re very stressed out in those last few weeks when you’re making a run in the playoffs.”

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‘We did it baby’: Grey Cup MVP Andrew Harris celebrates at parade
‘We did it baby’: Grey Cup MVP Andrew Harris celebrates at parade

And Wolitarsky says once the season has ended, it can be a difficult transition back into a normal life cycle. “That’s what people don’t really get. When you come home you’re dealing with a lot of loss. You lose your teammates, you lose THAT team. You lose the sense of that camaraderie in going to work every day and being with guys who are like-minded, who are driven and kinda inspire you, in a way.”

Wolitarsky says “normalcy” is a little weird at first, so he considers it very helpful to not only write music, but also write short stories to get through that period where he’s not having as many adrenaline spikes per week.

But it never hurts to go back and re-live what went down during that memorable November playoff run. Wolitarsky says there is one moment that resonated with him more than any other — it was what occurred in the Bombers dressing room at half time of the Western Semifinal at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. “We’re down by four points, or something little (the score was actually 14-8) and I remember just kinda looking around. I can see the guys’ faces, and I can hear them talking. They’re just like, ‘man, this is not how we’re gonna go out.’ And it was kinda like this shift came over. We kinda all made the choice — like ‘dude this is not how we end. We’ve gone through too much, we have a great team right now’, and it was kind of like everyone trusted at the same time. Everyone believed at the same time and suddenly we had this aura around us and we went back out and just dominated.”

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Wolitarsky says that same “something” carried over to the Western Final in Regina, and then the Grey Cup where the Blue and Gold picked the very best time to play their very best football game of the season in manhandling Hamilton 33-12.

“The last 30 seconds on the field and it’s kinda like, as a kid — man, you dream of a championship.

“You dream about what would that be like — to be on a team that is holding up a trophy and getting champagne in your face.”

Wolitarsky says he remembered being on the field and in that final huddle for the victory offense before the gun sounded to make it official. “We just kinda looked at each other, like, ‘guys — we’re about to win this thing. We’re about to win the Grey Cup.’ The fans are already screaming and jumping. In that huddle, we all kinda lived out our own little histories and the things we had to do to get here. Look at who’s next to us, these strangers that we would have never expected to meet, would have never expected to get close to- and we’re all here. It doesn’t get much more surreal than that. It’s so beautiful dude.”

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Modified CFL season could be blessing in disguise for Winnipeg Blue Bombers