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August 30, 2017

Bisons Camp | Alex Christie and Life after football

Winnipeg, Manitoba - Manitoba Bisons vs Calgary Dinos in week one CIS regular season action September 1. Tara Miller Bison Sports ©2016

It’s the ultimate goal for most university players: to make it the the professional level and play in either the Canadian Football League or down south in the National Football League.

Yet, when given that opportunity to play pro this past May, University of Manitoba Bisons running back Alex Christie turned it down.

The natural inclination may be to then ask why someone would shut the door on a lifelong dream. In the fifth-year veteran’s case, it was because another door opened instead, and it’s one that Christie had been working just as hard to reach.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to do some kind of financial service job,” said Christie, who graduated this past May with a degree in economics. “So I kind of geared my education towards that.”

Bisons football head coach Brian Dobie also knew that Christie was hoping to get into financial sales, and was able to get the ball rolling for him last year through a Manitoba alumnus. Kevin Neiles – a Bison football alumni and current president of the prairie region with Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG) Insurance and Risk Management – offered Christie a summer internship, with the chance at employment with the company afterwards.

“Kevin was kind of like, ‘Hey, bring him out and we’ll kind of give him an interview and a rundown of how insurance works,’ and it worked out really well,” Christie said. “It kind of came full circle in early May, and I decided to take the internship rather than maybe play in the CFL.”

It wasn’t an easy decision for Christie to make, as the Ottawa REDBLACKS were very interested in his services. But in the long run, the chance at long-term financial security in his field of interest outweighed the benefits of being selected in the latter stages of the draft.

“Let’s say I get drafted where they (the REDBLACKS) said they were looking to draft me in the seventh round. I mean, it’s tough for a seventh round running back to make a professional football team,” Christie began. “So I felt, for a lifetime progression, it was a safer call to take the job. It was a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity as well. Not many people can come out of university saying they have a potential career.

“I talked to my family a lot, I talked to my girlfriend, who obviously plays a massive role in my life, and we kind of decided as a whole that it would be best for me to take a career over a childhood dream.”

The internship worked out well for Christie, and he’ll begin working for AJG in September while also playing for Manitoba. He was noticeably absent from the first week of training camp, as he just recently finished his training with the insurance company and was back home in St. Catharine’s, Ont., getting a well-deserved break while spending time with his family before making his return to the field on Saturday.

In hindsight, Christie likely didn’t have to return for his final year of U SPORTS eligibility, due to already having a job lined up, however he felt it was important to return in order to be “more of a mentor” to the younger running backs Manitoba has, such as former Canada West Rookie of the Year Jamel Lyles, along with second year Somto Onyadike.

“It’s great to have him back, and he’s the consummate captain,” said Bisons head coach Brian Dobie. “He’s so respected in that locker room, so it’s great to have with back for a lot of reasons.”

Regardless of how the Bisons do this year, one thing is for sure: Christie will be flying around, having a ball in what will be his last dance at the collegiate level.

“I just really want to have fun one last time with the boys,” he said.