June 5, 2019

“I play this game because I love it” | Nichols Excited for Game Action

Winnipeg Blue Bombers #17 Chris Streveler AND Winnipeg Blue Bombers #15 Matt Nichols during the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Vs. Edmonton Eskimos game at IG Field Friday May 31, 2019

It’s not something Matt Nichols can truly explain, other than to file it under the adrenaline rush that only comes on game day. His personality transforms from mild-mannered dad/husband/professional quarterback to something that might best be described as a fiery leader prone to primal screams and with his competitive gene cranked up to 11.

And yes, that even goes for a preseason game like Thursday night’s meeting with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina.

“Everyone has a couple different personalities,” said Nichols Wednesday after the Bombers completed their walk-through practice. “I’m definitely a way different person off the field than I am on it. My wife always says it, whenever we’re just sitting around the house – because I’m such a different person – she’ll say ‘I can’t even believe that’s even you out there because it’s like watching someone else.’ It’s something that’s helped me get to this point, but it’s something I’ve had to work on, too, because it used to be too much. I’m trying to find that balance.

“It’s not something I think about, it’s just I’m a competitor and I want to win and I want my teammates to succeed and be at the best of their abilities,” added Nichols. “It’s something that just kind of comes over you and I definitely look forward to that. I play this game because I love it, I love game days, I love the grind and adversity throughout a game. These are all things you just can’t replicate aside from actual games. I’m looking forward to getting in there and getting that feeling back.”

Nichols dressed for last week’s preseason victory over the Edmonton Eskimos, but did not take any snaps. Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said Nichols will start against the Roughriders and his time on the field will likely be determined by a certain number of offensive series rather than by quarter or play count. All four quarterbacks are making the trip, including Chris Streveler, Bryan Bennett and Sean McGuire, but Nichols will be seeing his first live action since last November’s West Final loss to the Calgary Stampeders.

Nichols said the Bombers offence is so well-established across the CFL the club won’t go with a vanilla package knowing they will face the Riders three times in the regular season. Instead, the goal Thursday is the same as it is for every game: sustain drives and put up points.

“It’s not about trying to out-scheme each other like you do in the regular season,” Nichols said. “It’s more about going out and having some live reps against someone else before the real season starts. You can’t replicate that other than doing it.

“Definitely during a game I can throw a few yards farther than I can in practice, for whatever reason. Obviously it’s the environment… when I’m out here at practice quarterbacks don’t get hit so there’s not that true fight or flight thing that takes over… you can’t replicate that other than in a real game. It’s important to get some throws and get that feeling because it definitely is different than practice.”


The Bombers are leaving receivers Darvin Adams, Chris Matthews (injured) and Nic Demski in Winnipeg, meaning newcomers like Kenny Lawler, Rasheed Bailey, Kenny Walker, Tim Wilson, Matt Hazel, Dylan Schrot and Lucky Whitehead will have plenty of opportunity to impress.

“It’s exciting for me. I’m feeling good flying around,” said Whitehead. “The game is slowing down for me. I’m understanding a lot more of my playbook and understanding the plays and concepts a lot more, so I’m definitely moving faster.”

Whitehead and Charles Nelson are in a battle for the kick-returner job, but don’t rule out the ex-Dallas Cowboy as a receiver threat, too.

“He just has world-class speed and good size,” said Nichols of Whitehead. “Honestly, I remember watching him a little bit in the NFL, especially as a return guy, and when you’re a good return guy that’s kind of what they label you as. But he’s a good receiver who really caught onto this offence quickly.

“It helps having a couple of veteran guys on the field with him where a lot of the reps he’s learning on the fly and taking things up quickly. He’s a very talented receiver and a guy that can add another dyamic for us where he’s a guy that you can get the ball in his hands on a five-yard pass and he can take it 60. I mean, he’s that much faster than everyone else. He just adds something a little bit different and I look forward to continue to work with him.”


A scene from the end of practice on Tuesday worth repeating… there was Bombers DT Connor Griffiths – the UBC product who was the club’s third-round pick (25thoverall) in this year’s draft – legitimately excited when two reporters asked to interview him.

“I’ve been waiting for you guys for a long time,” said Griffiths win a grin.

Griffiths has turned heads since the first days of rookie camp last month with his high motor and how quickly he gobbles up information. He’s working to lock up a roster spot, while being groomed by veteran Jake Thomas.

“It’s definitely different. In college, you know you’re a starter and you’re doing all the things that the veterans here are doing,” said Griffiths. “So it’s basically being a rookie again, like when I first got to UBC. I expected it and I know I’ve got to work from where I’m at to get to the top, but I’m excited. I’m here to learn; I’m living out the dream. I’m playing football and I have a chance to make money doing it and not a lot of people get to do that.”

Griffiths took some snaps in last week’s preseason win over Edmonton, but should be busier in Regina with Drake Nevis, Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat all staying behind in Winnipeg.

“It was nerve-racking when I first got out there because I’ve never played in front of that many people,” said Griffiths. “But I felt as the game went on, I started getting more and more comfortable. This week, I have nerves to go play a football game but it wasn’t quite the exact same nerves I had last week. I’m just excited to get to Sask and just play and show whatever I got and give whatever I got.”