Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New deputy GM right at home

Bombers pick special-teams coach Walters to assist Mack

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Joe Mack says a continent-wide search for a new assistant GM determined the best man was already working in the Bombers offices all along.

Mack told reporters in a conference call Wednesday afternoon the club considered 16 to 18 candidates from across North America for its vacant assistant GM job before deciding to promote special-teams coach Kyle Walters to the position.

"A lot of people had extensive experience in pro football in the CFL and the NFL, to be quite frank," Mack said. "But with Kyle, he's been in the league for three years (and) it's a huge positive he's played in the league and been captain of a team.

"And (the fact) he's been a head coach of a CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) program just added to his overall value."

It's known the Bombers also pursued TSN analyst and widely respected Canadian "draftologist" Duane Forde to take the assistant GM job.

But the Free Press reported last month \the Bombers balked at Forde's salary demands and decided to hire Walters instead at Mack's urging.

Mack said he intends to involve Walters in all aspects of the Bombers front office, from draft research to negotiating with agents. The Bombers potentially have 12 free agents this winter.

Walters does have some experience negotiating contracts -- he acted as his own agent during his playing career.

Asked if he will groom Walters to be his successor, Mack hedged.

"I think any good organization ought to be conscious of a success plan. Our intention is certainly for Kyle to grow in the position and be a candidate if that does occur."

Mack said the final say on all decisions -- including on draft day -- will remain his.

"Although everyone will be involved in the process... it will always be the general manager's final decision when it comes to personnel," he said.

Walters replaces longtime former assistant GM Ross Hodgkinson, who was sacked last month.

Walters, who had a seven-year CFL career as a defensive back in Hamilton, joined the Bombers in 2010 after four years as head coach of the Guelph Gryphons of the CIS.

In 2011, he added duties as the Bombers' Canadian college draft co-ordinator, and on Wednesday added the title of director of Canadian scouting to his new assistant GM title.

"I'm excited to get going," Walters said. "From a Canadian draft standpoint, I'm just planning on building on what we've already been doing the last couple years.

"Instead of spending four to six weeks after the season trying to cram everything in... I'm excited at the opportunity to get out more during the season and be less focused on coaching and more being able to be at the schools and see practices and kind of spread the workload out throughout the entire year."

Walters was part of the decision-making that went into some very successful recent Bombers draft picks, most notably offensive lineman Chris Greaves, slotback Cory Watson and middle linebacker Henoc Muamba.

But Walters was also in the room when the club used their fourth-overall and third-overall selections the last two years, respectively, to pick receiver Jade Etienne, who has one catch in two years , and offensive lineman Tyson Pencer, who has yet to play a down in the regular season because of a recurring shoulder problem.

Mack said he still holds high hopes for both Etienne and Pencer. Walters says his grading of all eight CFL teams' performance in recent drafts has the Bombers at or near the top.

Walters, 39, is married with two children. The family resides year-round in Winnipeg.

Mack said he has already had preliminary discussions with head coach Tim Burke about hiring a new special-teams coach, adding that decision likely won't be made until the new year.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2012 D3

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