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June 3, 2019

“It means a lot to be here for 8 years” | Thomas Bombers’ longest-standing veteran

Winnipeg Blue Bombers #95 Jake Thomas

Not-breaking news from Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp…

Jake Thomas, the veteran defensive tackle, is still here, still doing his thing through eight Canadian Football League training camps, still very much in the mix for semi-regular snaps along the defensive line as the team’s longest-serving member.

All this isn’t new for anyone who has followed the Bombers dating back to 2012, when the club called out his name in the fourth round, 29th overall. And just for those scoring at home, there’s this: the players drafted by the Bombers ahead of him that year – Tyson Pencer, Johnny Aprile, Christo Bilukidi and Rene Stephan – combined to play in a grand total of 15 games for the club.

And when Thomas suits up for the regular season opener June 15th in B.C., it will be career game 120.

Critical in his longevity has been the approach he takes every single day, in season and in his training over the winter.

“You’re always fighting for a job, no matter who you are,” said Thomas after Bombers practice on Monday. “I always take training camp and my offseason training pretty serious and then just hope by the end of camp the cards fall where they fall and hopefully you’re still here. Then the group that’s still here, you start to work together as a team and ultimately get to that end goal of the Grey Cup.

“I think on paper we’re good, but paper doesn’t mean anything until you get out there and start to show it. We have a decent amount of continuity, which is nice, and the pieces we’ve brought in are starting to jell already. Hopefully Week 1 we can hit the ground running.”

A proud product of Douglas, NB and Acadia University, Thomas has missed just three games in the last six seasons. He’s also one of those veteran ‘glue’ team-first guys that head coach Mike O’Shea loves to have on his roster.

So, ask him about potentially earning a starting role along the D-line and Thomas waves that off instantly.

“At this point in my career all I really care about is winning a Grey Cup,” he said. “If that means playing 60 snaps a game or if that means playing two snaps a game, whatever it takes… I just want to get that ring.”

Thomas almost had his time with the Bombers cut short last year. He was a late training-camp addition a year ago after Faith Ekakitie struggled, and as a sign of his popularity, when he rejoined the team mid-practice the session stopped and he was met with a loud cheer.

“I was telling a couple of guys the other day, ‘Don’t take anything for granted. It goes by quick,’” said Thomas. “I still feel like we’re at the old stadium every now and then and that it’s my first year. I look around and crack some jokes and no one in the room gets the jokes or the references. It definitely goes by quick.

“The biggest thing for me is you see it a lot in the NHL… I’m a Mario Lemieux guy and how he played his whole career with one team… that’s very important to me. It means a lot to be here for eight years, go through as many changes as I have. Hopefully we can cap this year off with a championship.”