January 18, 2020

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Grey Cup champs touch down to thunderous airport reception

Hundreds of fans turn out to cheer Blue Bombers' return

As Chris Streveler limped into the main terminal building at Richardson International Airport Monday afternoon, the thunderous roar from the hundreds of fans who met the second-year quarterback and his Winnipeg teammates surely helped to ease the pain.

Streveler, who had performed a key change-up role for the Blue Bombers while reportedly playing through a high ankle sprain and broken bone in his right foot suffered in the second last game of the regular season, took the time to soak it all in. He paused briefly before making a slow exit — signing autographs, shaking hands and posing for pictures on his way out of the building.

"It's the best feeling in the world, man," said the 24-year-old from Crystal Lake, Ill. "These fans are amazing. The amount of people here right now to greet us is unreal. The parade tomorrow's gonna be unbelieveable."

"These fans are amazing. The amount of people here right now to greet us is unreal. The parade tomorrow's gonna be unbelieveable," quarterback Chris Streveler said. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

"These fans are amazing. The amount of people here right now to greet us is unreal. The parade tomorrow's gonna be unbelieveable," quarterback Chris Streveler said. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

The parade he mentioned, celebrating Winnipeg's 33-12 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the city's first Grey Cup title since 1990, will start at Hargrave Street and Portage Avenue at noon Tuesday, heading east down Portage before wrapping up at The Forks.

Streveler completed all three of his passes for 39 yards and ran the ball nine times for 30 more yards against the Ticats. His play was a superb complement during the post-season to starting quarterback Zach Collaros, a late-season addition following a season-ending injury to Matt Nichols.

Streveler was so firmly in post-season mode he was still refusing to discuss his injuries Monday.

"I've got six months until next season, I've got plenty of time (to rehab)," said Streveler. "I don't really care to talk about it, to be honest with you, man. I know it's on everyone's mind but everyone else has gone through stuff this season, too, so I don't want to make my situation a big story."

It was a big story to his teammates.

"We have a tough guy in Strev," said safety Brandon Alexander. "He just wanted to go out and compete for his guys. He could be crawling on the field. Until he can't move, he's gonna play. And Collaros coming in and being a part of the team, he fit in immediately. He didn't care about starting... he just cared about the team."

Added wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky, Streveler's college roommate and a close friend: "I'm super proud of him. I know he's taken his shots but he'll be healing up this off-season."

Rookie defensive end Jonathan Kongbo had finished in a runner-up position often enough in his athletic career that he wanted to fully bask in the fan reception.

Right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick was able to celebrate on the field after the game with his wife Samantha and eldest child, six-year-old Jermarcus Jr. (David Lipnowski / The Canadian Press)

Right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick was able to celebrate on the field after the game with his wife Samantha and eldest child, six-year-old Jermarcus Jr. (David Lipnowski / The Canadian Press)

"It's kind of a beautiful moment," said Kongbo, who missed the first six games of the regular season while rehabbing a serious knee injury. "I know everyone was out with their phones but I was like 'you know what, 'I'm just going to enjoy this.' It feels great.

"I've always been so close to winning championships and always come in second place but to actually win it, it's one of those feeling you can't describe," said Kongbo. "... To come up here, my first year in the CFL, and be embraced by such great teammates and win the Cup has been amazing."

Club president and CEO Wade Miller was bleary-eyed, emotional and almost lost for words at Monday's airport reception. He was, after all, celebrating his first CFL championship after an 11-year playing career and six years of running the franchise.

"Well, it's great, it's great for our fans, great for the players to see the connection with this community," said Miller.

Alexander appreciated the support the team had received during an improbable run to the championship game, including road wins in the West Division semifinal and final.

Fans congratulate Adam Bighill at the airport. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Fans congratulate Adam Bighill at the airport. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

"We just believed in our guys in-house and the fans believed in us and the process and what we were doing," said Alexander. "That's all we could ask for. They've been riding for 29 years now, we're happy the fans can enjoy it with us. Just exciting to be a part of it."

Right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick had a special highlight from Grey Cup Sunday. He was able to celebrate on the field after the game with his wife Samantha and eldest child, six-year-old Jermarcus Jr.

"That was the greatest thing about it all," said Hardrick. "Just being able to have my family there and have the confetti fall on them. Nobody sees me putting in the work like they do."

 

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

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

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