A Winnipeg-born running back is working hard to make his dreams of playing professional football come true.
The University of North Dakota (UND) was the only school that offered Brady Oliveira a scholarship coming out of high school. Though some players would be bitter about not garnering more collegiate interest, Oliveira is thankful to have ended up with the Fighting Hawks.
“That’s all you need. You only need one school to believe in you and you only need one opportunity,” said Oliveira in an interview with 3DownNation. “When you get there it’s up to you to make the most of it and that’s what I did.”
Oliveira, like many Canadian running backs, has faced an uphill battle to play the position he loves. UND’s defensive coordinator wanted to convert Oliveira to free safety as a freshman but Kyle Schweigert, the team’s head coach, insisted he remain at running back.
“I’m a running back. This is my home and the position I fell in love with playing. God has given me all these abilities to play this position and I think it’s the position I’m meant to play.”
Oliveira’s Winnipeg roots may have played a role in him excelling at the running back position. CFL running backs Andrew Harris, Anthony Coombs, Kienan LaFrance, and Alex Taylor are all originally from Winnipeg with Coombs and LaFrance having attended the University of Manitoba.
“Maybe there is something in the water up in Winnipeg. When you look at the CFL and see where all these great players are from it seems a lot of them are from Winnipeg,” says Oliveira.
Oliveira doesn’t see the number of pro running backs from Winnipeg — many of whom he’s befriended through off-season training sessions — as a source of intimidation. Instead, he views it as motivation to achieve greatness.
“I want to be the best that I can be. I want to be the best football player to ever come out of Winnipeg.”
Oliveira’s pro day is slated for March 28 and he’s anticipating that all 32 NFL teams will be in attendance. Currently making his off-season home in Minneapolis, Oliveira is working out at Gameface Training in Brooklyn Park with founder and head trainer Deventri Jordan.
Oliveira hopes to run a 4.50 forty-yard dash and put up 25 reps on the bench press. He recently recorded a 36-inch vertical leap, though he hopes to improve that to 38 inches by his pro day.
Only four of the 31 running backs at last year’s NFL combine ran a sub-4.50 forty-yard dash. Three recorded 25 bench reps or more.
The NFL is Oliveira’s first priority but he recognizes that his best professional opportunities may lie north of the border. Currently the tenth player on the CFL’s scouting bureau rankings, Oliveira feels strongly about where he sees himself going in the draft.
“I think I should be the number-one pick overall. I think every team should be looking at me and should want me on their team.”
CFL teams have often been reluctant to allow Canadian players to serve as the club’s primary ball carrier. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the only club slated to start a national running back in 2019 — fitting, given the city that the team calls home — and Oliveira will look to avoid being relegated to the fullback role that many national players are asked to fill at the CFL level.
“I think I do all three phases well — running the football, catching the ball, and I can block extremely well,” says the two-time All-Sky Conference player.
Oliveira feels that some running backs neglect their development in the area of pass protection.
“I can be trusted in that phase of the game. Stepping up and protecting the quarterback … that’s the most important thing.”
Oliveira has little to prove as a ball carrier. Recording 2,822 rushing yards in 42 games with the Fighting Hawks, Oliveira has the frame (5-foot-10, 225 pounds), quickness, and strength to be successful at the pro level. The NFL draft is scheduled for April 25-27 this year, followed by the CFL draft on May 2.
The 21-year-old rarely had the opportunity to catch the ball out of the backfield at UND. He put his receiving skills on display at this year’s College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas and hopes to do so again at his pro day in five weeks.
“I’m a grinder,” Oliveira said.
“I don’t shy away from contact. It’ll take three or four people to take me down. If you watch my film you’ll see that. I’m not running out of bounds.”