‘You want the confetti to hit you’: Future Hall of Fame left tackle Stanley Bryant saw no reason to leave ‘forever home’ in Winnipeg

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

In professional sports, when a team wins a championship it usually precedes a mass exodus.

Championship caliber players want to be paid based on the value of the ring on their finger and other teams are all too often willing to pay exorbitant rates to bring that experience into their locker room. Keeping a winning squad intact is a near impossibility.

Except, it seems, for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. For the second straight off-season — third if you count the pandemic canceled 2020 season — the back-to-back Grey Cup champions have been able to retain the vast majority of their veteran corps, most at reasonable rates.

The latest is three-time Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Stanley Bryant, who signed a one-year extension late Friday. There is little doubt the future hall of famer would have commanded huge dollars on the open market, but he admitted via conference call on Saturday that he thought very little about leaving the Bombers.

“It’s home for me. It will be my forever home. People always say the grass is greener on the other side, but I think Winnipeg will be my home forever,” the hulking left tackle admitted.

“I didn’t even see a real reason for me to attempt to leave Winnipeg. It’s a family over there and my family loves it there. My friends love the city, they love the organization when they come up to see the games. There are just a bunch of pros that led to me staying and I can’t see myself playing anywhere else.”

That is a sentiment shared by many of Bryant’s teammates. So far this off-season the list of all-stars staying in the Manitoba capital includes Jemarcus Hardrick, Willie Jefferson, Jackson Jeffcoat, Pat Neufeld, Mike Miller, Adam Bighill and reigning MOP Zach Collaros.

All, including Bryant, have cited the deep connections within the Bombers’ building as a reason for staying, a by-product of the family first coaching philosophy employed by Mike O’Shea. Of course, there is no substitute for winning either.

“I think that at some point in your career you just have be comfortable with your decisions and comfortable with your environment,” Bryant said.

“I’m pretty sure all the names you mentioned could have went elsewhere and got more money and things like that. But I mean, why would you do that? We’ve been winning a couple of Grey Cups the last couple of years. You want the confetti to hit you, you don’t want to be watching the confetti.”

Bryant felt the confetti on his face once before, with the Calgary Stampeders back in 2014. That was the offseason he left for Winnipeg, what he describes as a youthful decision that ultimately resulted in the most dominant stretch of his career. Soon to be 36, Bryant has fully settled down, but don’t expect the dominance to disappear anytime soon.

“Honestly I can just say I feel joy and love the game. Before every game, I still get nervous to go out there and play,” he said. “I feel like I can play this game forever as long as I’ve got that same feeling and can go out and do my job to the best of my abilities. I feel like I can still do that.”

With Bryant back along an offensive line with impressive continuity, Winnipeg expects to feel confetti once again. As a long-time participant in the prairie rivalry, the prospect of completing a Grey Cup three-peat in 2022 on the home turf of the hated Saskatchewan Roughriders elicited a long belly laugh from Bryant, but he quickly towed the Bombers’ company line.

“I think honestly we are just going to treat it as another game. We’ve got to prepare and do things the right way to get the opportunity to go to the Grey Cup,” he said coyly.

“We’ve been successful the last couple of years, so if we stick to the script and continue to do the things we do, dominating with the offensive line, defensive line, special teams, everything, then we’ll get to Mosaic Stadium and see how everything is going to go.”

Abbott is a UBC student, youth coach and lifelong CFL fanatic. He specializes in coverage of the CFL draft and the league's global initiative.