Oliveira learning from the best

Bombers RB soaking up football knowledge from Harris

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In the locker room, teammates joke he's Andrew Harris' cousin. They've also nicknamed him Little Drew.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/07/2021 (398 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In the locker room, teammates joke he’s Andrew Harris’ cousin. They’ve also nicknamed him Little Drew.

And while Brady Oliveira plans to make a name for himself in the CFL, he figures it’s not such a bad idea to take a few lessons from the master while he’s still developing his craft.

“For me being young in my career, there’s no better place for me to be and than being in Winnipeg and having such a great running back to learn from,” said the 23-year-old running back after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers wrapped up Day 5 of training camp Wednesday morning. “Obviously, me being from Winnipeg and Andrew being from Winnipeg, I’ve known him way before I’ve been on the Bombers. Him and I trained at gyms in Winnipeg way back years ago.”

ALEX LUPUL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Running back Brady Oliveira (20) carries the ball Wednesday during Blue Bombers training camp action.

Oliveira, drafted 14th overall by the Blue Bombers in 2019, never got off the launch pad in his rookie season.

He suffered a fractured right ankle during a special teams play in his second regular-season game. The break required surgery and he hasn’t played since. While the 2020 season was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oliveira worked diligently to get back to top form.

During the first few days of camp, Oliveira’s been getting more than his share of the reps with Harris playing a spectator role.

ALEX LUPUL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Brady Oliveira's rookie season was cut short by an ankle injury. He's in great shape and learning more about the game from his old friend Andrew Harris.

Head coach Mike O’Shea said he wants to see his young running backs practise rather than put unnecessary miles on the 34-year-old Harris, who enters the 2021 season No. 8 on the league’s all-time rushing list.

Oliveira, who came to the Blue Bombers after a superb four-year career at the University of North Dakota, has yet to record his first CFL carry.

“I’m still a new guy here and I’m a young guy and practise is what really makes you great and by getting all these practice reps, seeing all these different looks, being able to run with the (first team) and talking to the O-linemen and them taking me under the wing and really explaining the full concept, for me this perfect,” said Oliveira. “This is exactly what I need right now.”

While it’s too early to consider it a passing of the torch to a younger generation, slotback Nic Demski said Oliveira is poised for big things.

“He’s hungry, he’s ready to go and he’s young,” said Demski of his off-season workout partner. “He’s a big back and, as I said, he’s a physical specimen. So the potential is through the roof and he knows that.”

The 5-10, 227-pound Oak Park product threw himself into rehabbing the ankle after surgery and doesn’t doubt his readiness for a heavy load. He credited a plant-based, vegetarian diet as being crucial to his recovery process.

“That’s in the past, my ankle’s all good now,” said Oliveira. “It’s nothing I have to worry about or anyone has to worry about. It was a fracture in a bone (and) bones heal, right? So with the ankle thing, everything’s good and I’m just I’m just super excited to be back on the field doing what I love…

“If anything, I feel I feel faster than I did in ’19. And I feel stronger. I’m a little bit bigger and I think I’m leaner.”

When asked about Oliveira’s role in 2021, O’Shea said the young runner’s experience and grasp of the playbook will be key.

“Do I think he’s got the vision and the ability to cut in the backfield? Yes. Do I think he’s got good really good size? Yes…” said O’Shea. “I know he can carry the football. I’m just more interested to see him protect and make sure he’s sharp on all the calls and all the protections and he’s supporting the line and the quarterback like he needs to.”

To gain an expert understanding of those responsibilities, Oliveira will be leaning on the old pro for advice. Harris, who is starting his 11th season in the CFL and his fifth in Winnipeg, was an active presence during Wednesday’s practice, frequently dispensing advice.

“I’ve never came across a guy that is so knowledgeable IQ-wise, you know, talking in the football game,” said Oliveira. “It’s crazy. So just being able to pick his brain and really asking the why? Why are we doing this or can you explain it to me? He’s been he’s been a great help and that’s truly gonna help elevate my football game.”

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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Updated on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 11:04 PM CDT: Fixes typos.

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