July 16, 2016

The Duo from North Dakota

Ryan Smith (12) and Weston Dressler (7) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the against the Edmonton Eskimos game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

If it weren’t for the numbers on the backs of their jerseys, you’d be hard-pressed to tell Ryan Smith and Weston Dressler apart out on the field. But it’s not just stature and position the pair share in common – the two former Saskatchewan Roughriders both come from North Dakota and both signed with the Bombers this off-season.

And they also both happen to live under the same roof with Dressler’s fiancé, Tegan, here in Winnipeg and back in their days in Regina.

“They take care of me,” began Smith. “His fiancé even offered to do my laundry the other day. I was like ‘ah, I should let you, but I don’t want to.’”

Hearing this, Dressler rolls his eyes and adds a mocking laugh.

“If you walk by the guy’s room you’d understand why,” Dressler explained. “I mean, it’s just a normal… teenager’s room. He’s a good cleaner when he wants to be.”

Andrew Harris, Ryan Smith, Weston Dressler

The Dressler-Smith relationship, needless to say, goes beyond the typical teammates-become-roommates story. It’s unique, not just because of where they’ve come from and the positions they play, but because of their friendship.

A friendship that became immediately apparent before the double-interview even began.

If Smith is the teenager of the household, Dressler, the older of the two by six years, is clearly the father figure; an early-to-bed, early-to-rise father figure.

“He goes to bed at about 8:30 every single night, like a grandpa,” said Smith. “And I’m not going to sit downstairs by myself, so I have to go to my room at 9 o’clock every single night because ‘my parents’ are going to bed.”

That story brought a roar of laughter from Dressler, but there’s a beginning to this tale. When Smith’s roommate was released in Saskatchewan, he turned to Dressler for a place to stay. After consulting with his fiancé, Dressler – who had already rented a room to Rob Bagg – agreed to also take in Smith.

What he soon came to realize was that he hadn’t just agreed to take in Ryan, a fresh-faced new teammate.


“He’s got an alter ego,” explained Dressler as Smith groaned, knowing full well what was coming next.

“I call him ‘Bryan.’ When Ryan gets angry, he becomes a different person and everything will bother him. He’s like The Hulk. He gets just… well, the rage builds up and you can’t even talk to the guy.

“You try and talk to him and he’s just like ‘ NO!”

Dressler breaks into a ‘Bryan’ impersonation, grunting and stomping his feet.

“So when Bryan comes out,” Dressler adds, “you just ignore him for a little while and eventually he’ll calm down and Ryan comes back.”

The laughter continues.

Smith, catching his breath, attempts to offer an explanation for the ‘Ryan-to-Bryan’ transformation.

“Usually it’s about food,” said Smith.


Dressler is nodding and laughing, adding that the transformation is not a rare occurrence.

“This happens at least once a week. Yeah, I like to just give him his space or-”

“No, you egg it on!” interjects Smith with a laugh.

“Well it’s fun to egg it on when it’s coming out! I definitely call him Bryan,” admits Dressler.

“Like an older brother, just poking at me,” Smith shakes his head with a smile.

But Dressler knows his limits, and knows how to tame this alter ego.

“There’s definitely a breaking point though, where I have to step away and be like ‘ok, Ryan needs to come back.’”

Ryan Smith (12) and Weston Dressler (7) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the against the Edmonton Eskimos game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

Inseparable on and off the field, it’s an easy assumption to think the two receivers have known each other their entire lives, or that Smith was perhaps Dressler’s real-life younger brother who had maybe followed him to play receiver at the University of North Dakota.

In fact, official introductions didn’t come until the day Smith – a product of rival North Dakota State – first became a Roughrider in 2014. As Smith remembers, it went something like…

“It was ‘sup Dress? I’m Ryan. Nice to meet you.’ And then,” added Smith in a mocking happily-ever-after tone, “we never looked back from there.”

“Instant. Instant friendship,” added Dressler. “Both coming from North Dakota, we’ve got the rival schools thing going on so we had lots of things to discuss. Easy conversation.”

Here’s the truth, though.

The two didn’t first meet at Riders training camp two years ago. It actually happened years before, back when Smith was a junior at Wahpeton High School.

“It’s kind of funny…” begins Smith with a smile and a sideways glance at Dressler.

“When I went to Grand Forks my junior year of high school, I met him. He was at the Aleris Center. He probably doesn’t remember that, I was just a little shrimp.”

Dressler takes a step back, eyes wide in surprise, and doubles over in laughter.

“I don’t remember that!” he exclaims. “This is the first time I’ve heard this!”

Smith smiles, playing up the long-forgotten moment to embarrass his super star friend.

“I was star-struck, you know,” Smith added with a smirk. “He’s from North Dakota, you look up to him.”

Ryan Smith Weston Dressler

This friendship, first forged in Regina and rekindled in Winnipeg, almost came to an end as quickly as it began when Dressler was released from the Riders on January 16, 2016 and signed with the rival Bombers.

Even then, Smith had a feeling things would work out for the best.

“I was optimistic about everything because when I was in talks with Saskatchewan, it wasn’t going so well,” explained Smith, who was heading into free agency in February.

“I ended up here, and I was pretty excited that Dress was here also. I wasn’t going to be the new guy out of place.”

Even in a new province and wearing new colours, Dressler just couldn’t escape his young protégé.


Dressler rolled his eyes as Smith laughed.

“No, I was super excited,” said Dressler with a playful jab towards Smith. “Just happy that we’re able to continue playing together. We had a few conversations throughout, but it’s so interesting through that time because as players, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know until that free agency day what exactly is going to go down, and my situation was a little different, being a free agent shortly before that time.

“It’s just fortunate for us that it worked out here for both of us.”

So what’s next for the dynamic duo from North Dakota?

After hours in the film room, a long practice, extra work out on the field afterwards, some time in the cold tub and a drive home – all still side-by-side – the pair will head home to make dinner together and maybe even watch a movie before Dressler’s 8:30 p.m. bedtime.

“Well, he did say he was going to make a meal the other day…” Dressler looks over quizzically at Smith.

“Yep. Chicken Alfredo. That’s my sig. Maybe I should make it tonight.”