Jake Thomas has never imagined playing anywhere other than Winnipeg. It’s where he started his career — selected by the Blue Bombers in the fourth round, 29th overall, in the 2012 CFL Draft — and it’s where he’s been ever since.

Jake Thomas has never imagined playing anywhere other than Winnipeg. It’s where he started his career — selected by the Blue Bombers in the fourth round, 29th overall, in the 2012 CFL Draft — and it’s where he’s been ever since.

So, when general manager Kyle Walters reached out to the veteran Canadian defensive tackle as the calendar turned to 2022, it was a no-brainer putting pen to paper. Thomas, 31, who is the team’s longest-tenured player, will be back for a 10th season, inking a one-year deal earlier this week to keep him with the Blue and Gold as they make their bid for a third consecutive Grey Cup championship.

“When both parties want something to get done, it can get done fairly quick,” Thomas said Thursday, from his office in his hometown of Fredericton, where he works as a real estate agent. “I really think 2020 kind of rejuvenated me and then I don’t think there’s anything more rejuvenating than winning. If we go 4-10 last year, I’m done. But my body, for the most part, feels great.

“I’ve told a few people this, my body almost felt better the day the season ended than the first day of training camp. For myself, it’s a year-to-year basis.”

While his football surroundings have remained much the same over the past decade, a lot has changed for Thomas personally. When he joined the club a decade ago, he was a fresh-faced kid out of Acadia University just trying to find his way.

He’s now a back-to-back champion, as well as a husband to his wife, Sarah, and a father to their eight-month-old son, Emmett. Thomas said while football has always been a passion and he’s just as committed to the game as he was when he started playing pro, as he gets older there are more factors to consider when deciding to continue playing football.

“Really, the main reason I’ve been able to keep doing this as long as I have is because my wife’s a rock star,” Thomas said. “There’s a lot more moving parts, especially now being a father, there are just a lot more variables in the equation compared to when I was 21 and just graduated from Acadia and then two weeks later I was at Winnipeg’s rookie camp with no idea what was going on.”

It was that all hands-on-deck approach, Thomas said, that made the 2021 season so memorable, beyond the fact everyone was playing during the COVID-19 health crisis. He had his in-laws take care of the dog, his wife’s aunt looked after their two cats and The Drisdelle Team (the real estate group with which Thomas is affiliated) supported him back home so he could continue his professional development off the field.

Meanwhile, Sarah was tending to a newborn baby while Thomas put in long days at IG Field and was away nearly every other weekend playing games on the road.

“Yeah, my wife is the real MVP for letting me be able to play the game I love,” Thomas said.

Then there were the moments with his teammates throughout the season, none of which was greater than what followed their 33-25 overtime win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup. Thomas said because of all the health protocols the team faced to combat COVID-19, team bonding outside the stadium didn’t really exist until Grey Cup week.

And to win it all made the seemingly endless sacrifices throughout the year worth it.

“For me, it was looking around the locker room seeing guys that won their first one,” said Thomas, who had arguably his best game at the Grey Cup, registering four tackles and a sack. “(Long snapper) Mike Benson, who I went to university with, I think that was year nine or 10, and he never really even sniffed a Grey Cup. And then to be able to win it in his hometown, his wife carrying his little guy, it was just moments like that I’ll remember forever.”

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

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.