He possesses a football resume unlike anyone else on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. While many players in the CFL have had a shot in the NFL, few have been able to make the kind of impact at the game’s top level as Cam Meredith.
Yet Meredith, a 28-year-old product of Westchester, Ill., doesn’t see himself as special. Five years ago, during the 2016-17 NFL season, he led his hometown Chicago Bears in receiving — totalling 888 yards on 66 receptions, including four touchdowns — but he knows it’s a game where you’re only as good as your last snap.
"It’s professional football. It doesn’t matter where you’re playing. It could be Australian professional … we’re all out here to make money playing a game that we love," Meredith said after the Bombers first day of training camp Saturday.
"I’m not gonna put myself on a pedestal or downgrade anyone else. Everybody’s here to compete, everybody’s played professional football before, so it’s nothing new to anybody."
The last time Meredith played a game was in 2018. He had suffered a severe knee injury the year before, while with the Bears, tearing his ACL and MCL, as well as part of his meniscus. That would end his season before it even started, as the injury happened during Chicago’s third preseason game.
The following season he was offered a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, totalling US$9.6 million, with more than $5 million in guarantees. He’d play six games, reeling in just nine receptions for 114 yards and one score, before he was placed on injured reserve with another knee injury.
When he was released at the start of the 2019 season, the New England Patriots offered him a two-year pact, which he signed in early August. By the end of the month, Meredith was placed on the physically unable to perform list, where he would stay until his release in October.
That marked the end of his NFL career.
"It’s been such a long road just to get into a position to be able to play professional football, being a walk-on from a small school (Illinois State), undrafted. I took a lot of mini-victories along the way. To be able to get where I got is definitely a blessing," Meredith said.
"It’s really a different perspective to be here, looking back to where I was. I’m really just grateful. If I could have done more, could have done less, I don’t really like to look back anymore. I’m just trying to move forward."
While football was on hold, life continued on. Meredith met his partner years ago while playing in the NFL and the couple have two young kids. That’s where things get interesting.
Meredith is in Winnipeg because of family, not football. His partner Crysti is from the city, and while they were living together in the U.S. for some time, they decided to move their family to Winnipeg during the COVID-19 pandemic, buying a house five months ago.
"I’ve come up here a couple times before, been to The Forks, done some skating and all the good stuff," he said.
"It’s a close-knit family, blue-collar type of community. It’s not much different from everywhere else (I’ve been). The weather is a little bit colder at times. It’s all good stuff that I enjoy doing with my family and my extended family out here."
Meredith’s connection to Winnipeg does have a football twist. While with the Saints, he crossed paths with Danny McManus, the Bombers assistant general manager in charge of U.S. scouting. Noticing McManus was wearing a Blue Bombers golf shirt, Meredith let him know his partner was from Winnipeg. He was eventually added to the team’s negotiation list, giving the Bombers exclusive rights to his services in the event Meredith took his talents north.
Meredith also met Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill while the two were with the Saints. Bighill would ask for his release from New Orleans just prior to the 2018 season, to sign in the CFL, but the two remained in contact.
When Meredith moved to Winnipeg this year, Bighill reached out, exchanging texts and encouraging him to consider a return to football, this time in the CFL. Meredith’s agent reached out to the Bombers and a workout with team personnel ensued, including head coach Mike O’Shea and Buck Pierce, the Bombers offensive co-ordinator.
Meredith impressed and was immediately signed to a contract. At 6-3, 207 pounds, he’s a big target. And just might be the next playmaking receiver the Bombers have been looking for.
"To be out there, playing again, I can’t ask for much more, regardless of where it is. My body feels good. It’s been a long process to get confidence to be able to go out there and play professional again at the elite level that I’m capable of playing at," he said.
"I’ve put a lot of work in, throughout the off-season. I’m glad the work paid off and I’m here today, ready to keep going racking up the good days."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.