Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Goossen having a Blue blast

Team's first-round pick living it up in Winnipeg

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It's not THE story of the first few days of Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp. No, offensive linemen seldom draw much attention, especially when there is a new coach and quarterback in town to grab all the headlines.

But one of the most intriguing developments through two days of main camp -- and three rookie sessions before that -- has been what the Bombers have seen in centre Matthias Goossen, their first pick, second overall, in the 2014 CFL Draft.

Yes, he is just 21 and getting used to life away from home. And, yes, there are the occasional snaps when the 6-4, 294-pound Goossen looks exactly like a project straight out of Simon Fraser University who is going to need time to develop.

But there have also been large chunks of the Bomber training sessions when the Richmond, B.C. product has been so impressive it looks like he's got future 10-year pro written all over him.

"He's got some toughness, he's a young guy who learns very, very well," said Bomber head coach Mike O'Shea after a rain-soaked practice Monday. "He's certainly meeting our expectations. We're going to take it nice and easy to make sure he gets what he needs in terms of coaching,

"He's fun to watch out there. He's proving out, he's showing what he showed us on film. It's not like the game is too big for him."

'You know, it's just so cool to be wearing a Bomber uniform and playing in Winnipeg right now'

-- offensive line prospect Matthias Goossen

The Bombers have been careful about managing their excitement about Goossen, especially knowing he is still only 21. Just to put his age in perspective...

"When I was 21 I was probably at the bar," said veteran Bomber tackle Glenn January. "Which one? All of them. Hey, I was in university.

"I've only been around (Goossen) a couple of days but it seems like he's got a good head on his shoulders and is putting the work in. I've seen him a few times with his nose in the book.

"Rookies are to be seen and not heard, so he's fitting into that mould perfectly."

The last few weeks have been all about significant change for Goossen. An example: He played football at Simon Fraser and so when he first arrived in Winnipeg last week for rookie camp, it truly was his first time away from home. That came across in his first interview when he spoke about how awesome the dorms were at the University of Manitoba.

And the dorms came up again Monday.

"It can be a bit weird living in dorms. I feel like I've lived in a couple square blocks of Manitoba for the past week," said Goossen. "But it's been fun. The O-linemen have been really accommodating and they're really nice guys. They've made it easy to make this feel like home for me."

This happens a lot in any chat with Goossen. On the one hand there is his wide-eyed wonderment at the world and then there is a maturity beyond his years. There is a kid-in-the-candy-story theme to many of his answers, while mixed with his clear determination to make this game a career.

Maybe that, in part, comes from one of his main influences. Angus Reid played 13 years in the CFL. He went to the same high school as Goossen and was an SFU alum, too. And so when Goossen's parents asked him a few years back if he could spend some time with their boy, Reid -- long one of the CFL's good guys -- was eager to oblige.

And it didn't take him long to see the same characteristics in the kid the Bombers did in watching film and interviewing him before the draft.

"It's his work ethic and dedication he has to always wanting to get better," said Reid in a phone interview from Vancouver. "I saw that right away. He wants to do whatever it takes to be great and he's not afraid to put in the work.

"He's tough. If I was in the player personnel world and I was looking for offensive linemen the three things I would look for are: Intelligence, work ethic and toughness. He has all that and those are the things that will allow him to play for a long time.

"People always look for certain size and strength and physical attributes when they look at offensive linemen, but that only carries so far. The guys that put together long careers are the smart ones, the tough ones and the guys with a work ethic. I've seen all of that in him."

So have the Bombers, who may soon be writing his name in among the starters on their offensive line. He is that good. And he is that raw.

"Sometimes it all feels so surreal," said Goossen. "I mean, I'm playing football at a professional training camp. This is what I love to do. I love to play football.

"And now people are paying me to play football. That's something everybody dreams of, getting paid to do something you love. If they paid me a couple dollars, I'd still love it because it's such a treat.

"You know, it's just so cool to be wearing a Bomber uniform and playing in Winnipeg right now."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 3, 2014 D3

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