Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Labour of love for Blue hopeful

Baby's early arrival doesn't distract kicker

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CALGARY -- Brett Maher had a very short time to make a very important decision Friday morning.

On the surface, it might seem like the Winnipeg Blue Bombers rookie kicker chose football over family in electing to travel here with his team Friday morning, instead of rushing home to Nebraska to be with his wife -- who was rushed to hospital early Friday after having suddenly gone into labour four weeks prematurely.

As Maher saw it in the wee hours of Friday, the best thing he could do for his wife, Jenna, was to get on that plane bound for Calgary and try to win a job when the Bombers face the Stampeders here at McMahon Stadium tonight in Winnipeg's final pre-season contest of 2014.

There's a new mouth to feed in the Maher household, you see. Her name is Maela and despite being born at 7:24 a.m. Friday, a full month premature, the Maher's first child is thankfully healthy. But she isn't going to feed herself.

"I owe it to my wife and daughter to do everything I can to make this team," Maher said Friday, still giddy after a very early morning that began with a call at 5:45 a.m. that his wife had gone into labour a month prior to her July 15 due date.

Less than two hours later -- and with Maher in almost constant contact with his wife -- the baby was born. "Everything happened really, really fast," said Maher. "It was quite a morning."

With the baby and mother healthy and resting, Maher had to make a split-second decision on what to do about the team flight leaving for Calgary.

Except, as he tells it, there really was only one decision to make -- and Maela Maher had already made it for him. "It all happened so quickly that my hands were really tied. I found out just before 6 (a.m.) and she was born an hour-and-a-half later.

"And I got to Skype (a video link) into the delivery room just seconds after she was born and see my baby. So thank goodness for technology. And we've decided that I will head down there right after the game (tonight) so I will get to see them then."

Having decided to travel with the team to Calgary, Maher showed up for the Bombers pre-flight breakfast Friday morning, just like all the other men on the team who hadn't just become first-time fathers.

One of the first people Maher told what had happened was head coach, Mike O'Shea.

"I think he was surprised I wasn't already on plane home," said Maher.

That would put it mildly.

"He told me at breakfast that he'd just had a baby. And I said, 'What? Well why didn't you try to get home? Why didn't you call me?' " O'Shea recalled.

"And he said, 'No, you don't understand, she went into labour like an hour-and-a-half ago.'"

Maher said long before Friday's events, he and his wife had agreed there was a good chance he'd have to miss the birth of their child because of his obligations to the Bombers and the need to do everything possible to win what would be his first ever job in pro football.

As an American, Maher's got his work cut out for him trying to win a job normally reserved for Canadians. While his football resumé is impeccable -- he starred in college at the University of Nebraska -- and he's outperformed his rivals so far in training camp, that didn't change simply because he had a baby.

So it's play on, said Maher.

"I think they really have something special going on in Winnipeg and I think coach O'Shea is central to that," said Maher. "And I really feel -- and my wife agrees -- that I owe him and the Bombers my very best shot in trying to help the team."

So just to review what we learned about Brett Maher -- he keeps his cool and puts his team's interests first, even when placed under extreme duress. If that sounds familiar, it should -- it's also the job description of a good pro football kicker.

Maher might have done more Friday to win a job with the Bombers by what he did off the field than with anything he does on it tonight.

Asked if he was impressed with what his kicker showed him Friday, O'Shea was unequivocal. "Yes," he replied, "very much."

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2014 C1

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