When he’s not protecting one edge of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ offensive line, right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick is known for his colourful behaviour.
On multiple occasions, when he hits an excitement level so fierce, he’s admitted to wanting to take a bite out of the artificial turf that covers IG Field. He’s celebrated for his "Hardrick Hop" – which is part of a touchdown celebration that includes showing off his millimeters-high vertical by jumping into the wanting arms of fans; after all, he is 6-5 and 319 pounds – and is often the first player to fire up the crowd when they need a lift. That includes climbing the team’s bench on the sidelines and waving a towel vigorously in the air.
"Anytime we can see fans, anytime we can get anybody inside the building it’s going to be great," Hardrick said Tuesday, following Day 18 of training camp, and the first at IG Field.
"The fans have been so great since I’ve been here. During the year off, the year-and-a-half off, fans would keep in touch with me on social media and it just feels like family, man. I know a couple fans by name and I just love being a Bomber."
It’s no surprise then that when Hardrick first caught word the Bombers are able to pack IG Field for the season-opener Aug. 5, and that they were predicting a sellout, a giant football-sized smile took over his face. To find out Tuesday the team has confirmed it will raise its Grey Cup banner prior to kickoff next Thursday, Hardrick once again couldn’t hold back.
"It’s going to mean a lot to finally get a chance to see the banner," he said. "Any time we can get fans in there I’m absolutely going to jump in there, I’m absolutely going to give them some love. But just the fact there are going to be fans there almost gives me chills right now. I’m just ready to pay them back for everything they’ve done for us over the years."
LONG TIME COMING: The Bombers had hoped to unveil the championship banner during the 2020 season, but the entire year was wiped out owing to COVID-19, creating a massive delay in plans.
There was some pause to whether it would be done in Week 1 this season, if only because the team wasn’t sure how many fans could attend. It became a done deal as soon as the province permitted a full house of double-vaccinated fans.
Needless to say, it’s been a long time coming to finally celebrate.
"It’s been a long 20 months waiting to be able to celebrate with our fans, which will make Thursday night that much more memorable," Winnipeg Blue Bombers CEO and president Wade Miller said in a press release.
"Our staff has worked extremely hard to get to this point and we can’t wait to unveil our championship banner with a full stadium in attendance."
WAR OF WORDS: Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver Bralon Addison started a war of words last week when he said he hoped to spoil the Bombers’ banner unveil.
"It’d be a little sweet to spoil them dropping the banner, I won’t lie about that," he said.
Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was asked for a response, but, predictably, didn’t bite. He did, however, come up with a clever counterpoint.
"The fact of the matter is, I don’t know how you can spoil it. The banner is going to be dropped regardless," O’Shea quipped. "So, the fans are going to have their celebration and see the banner revealed and they’re going to be enjoying it from the get-go. Unless they’re planning on climbing to the roof and somehow sabotaging the rope system, I don’t know how that happens."
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.