Brady Oliveira, Willie Jefferson hope to remain with Blue Bombers through 2025 Grey Cup

Photo: David Mahussier/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Two of the most prominent members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are hoping to remain with the club through 2025 when the city plays host to the 112th Grey Cup.

Brady Oliveira and Willie Jefferson attended the press conference on Tuesday formally announcing the news, both of whom are set to become free agents following the upcoming 2023 season. The pair of stars made it clear that they’d love to remain with the team through 2025 in order to have a chance to win the Grey Cup on home soil.

“Being a local kid here, playing for my hometown team is a dream come true and I really don’t see myself going anywhere. I love the organization. I think it’s a great fit for me personally and my career, the role that I’ve stepped into and taken by storm last season,” Oliveira told 3DownNation.

“I’m still very young in my career and I think I can have a very long career here with this organization. I don’t see myself going anywhere and definitely see myself being under contract in 2025 for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.”

The Winnipeg native became the team’s starting running back following the departure of Andrew Harris this past off-season and rushed for 1,001 yards and four touchdowns along with 32 receptions for 252 yards and one touchdown. He played some of his best football in the postseason, recording 253 yards from scrimmage during the club’s playoff run that culminated in a 24-23 Grey Cup loss to the Toronto Argonauts in Regina.

It’s clear that the Grey Cup loss still stings for Oliveira, who started in the big game for the first time in 2022. The 25-year-old missed almost his entire rookie season in 2019 with a broken ankle, while he dressed as a backup to Harris when the club repeated as Grey Cup champions in 2021.

“We should have never lost that game. I still do believe and I think everyone in our locker room believed that we were the better team but [Toronto] just made a couple more plays than us in that game and that’s the way things go,” said Oliveira.

“We were the better team that game and it sucks knowing that and knowing that we lost the game when we shouldn’t have. It sucks but there’s definitely that little bit of a sour taste in our mouths going into the season and I think that’s good, it gives us more hunger and more motivation to go out there. For the times where we think we want to give up or times get tough, maybe give a little bit more and think about that Grey Cup loss to push us to go further.”

Jefferson and his family have already made what appears to be a long-term commitment to Winnipeg by moving to the city full-time last winter. Having the chance to play in a Grey Cup at IG Field in 2025 would seem to be the cherry on top for Jefferson when it comes time to sign his next extension with the club.

“Most definitely. Something like this is definitely a reason to stick around, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Jefferson.

“To have it here in 2025 is going to be something nice for the team, for the organization, for the fans, for the businesses and things that are helping the team and are going to be a part of the festivities. 2025 is going to be amazing. What better place to have it? Well, besides the weather, what better place to have it?”

Photo: David Mahussier/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Jefferson played in the first Grey Cup at IG Field as a member of the Edmonton Football Team in 2015, helping his team defeat the Ottawa Redblacks by a score of 26-20. He has fond memories of the game, which took place during his second season in the league.

“It was amazing. That was my first ever Grey Cup, so that was all new to me. But to know now what all goes into a Grey Cup — the media, the press, the festivities, not just for the players but for the fans and the families, the CFL awards and all that type of stuff — it’s amazing to see how much fun it is for everybody,” said the five-time West Division all-star.

“Fans from all around the league get together and just enjoy one another for this type of game. It’s going to be amazing to see, to have all those people in IG, that’s going to be fun.”

The Blue Bombers already have some of their most important assets signed through 2025, including head coach Mike O’Shea, quarterback Zach Collaros, and receiver Nic Demski.

Winnipeg is one of three CFL teams that has never played in the Grey Cup at home with the others being Calgary and Ottawa. Hamilton recently played on home soil in the Grey Cup in 2021 in a losing effort, while B.C. (2011), Toronto (2012), and Saskatchewan (2013) each won it in front of their hometown fans last decade.

Randy Ambrosie, the league’s commissioner, indicated they are awarding Grey Cups earlier than usual to help provide host committees with more time to plan. He anticipates the location of the 2026 Grey Cup will be announced at this time next year.

The CFL city that has gone the longest without hosting the game is Montreal, who most recently held it at Olympic Stadium in 2008. Ambrosie declined to disclose which other teams made bids for the 2025 Grey Cup, though he called Winnipeg’s pitch “spectacular.”

Photo: David Mahussier/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Historically, teams simply kept the profits that accompanied hosting the CFL’s championship game. This changed in 2018 when the revenues that accompanied the game were shared between the league’s nine time teams and it will change again in 2024 as the players also share in the profits as per the seven-year collective bargaining agreement that was ratified ahead of this past season.

Ambrosie also believes this change has resulted in teams becoming more aggressive in their bids for the game. Winnipeg reportedly received $5.5 million in support from the province in order to make their successful bid for 2025.

“It’s elevated everyone’s thinking with so much planning now going into … how do you differentiate yourselves (in the bidding process)? How do you bring those essential elements? There’s a scorecard that we’ve been using that takes into account the financial measures and then the overall festival experience. All of that is part of it,” said Ambrosie.

“It’s created some competitive pressure amongst the teams, which is good, but it’s caused everybody to think about, ‘How do we do the next better thing?’ Or, ‘How do we do it different than one of our predecessors might have done it?’ … I think it has really elevated the idea of hosting Grey Cup to a whole other level and Winnipeg rose to that challenge.”

Wade Miller, the Blue Bombers’ president and CEO, indicated that having extra time to plan will be a welcome change from the last time the city hosted the Grey Cup in 2015. The team is planning to expand on the Churchill tour it did eight years ago, this time making it a six-month endeavour that stretches to more areas of the province.

Dayna Spiring, the former chair of the club’s board of directors, will serve as co-chair of the Grey Cup festival host committee alongside Barb Gamey, who currently serves as the board’s vice-chair.

IG Field will not have expanded seating for the 112th Grey Cup, though some premium seats will be added to the standing room area located in the south end zone. The facility’s capacity for this past season was 33,234.

The tentative date for the game is Sunday, Nov. 16, 2025.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.