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September 15, 2022

48-Hour Primer | WPG at HAM

It’s long been considered one of the true wonders of science – how a man listed at 6-5 and 319 pounds, much more with full football armour on – could soar to such heights and launch himself into the stands after a touchdown.

They dubbed it the ‘Hardrick Hop’ and if you’ve witnessed a Winnipeg Blue Bombers touchdown at IG Field over the last few years – either in-house or on television – you’ve undoubtedly seen the big right tackle punctuate the moment in style by leaping into the end zone to celebrate with the diehards.

Except, in recent weeks the ‘Hardrick Hop’ has mysteriously disappeared – even during a Banjo Bowl performance that saw the Blue Bombers score seven touchdowns in a 54-20 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders – and has seemingly been replaced with a series of ‘new’ touchdown celebrations.

“It’s not banned. I just don’t want to mess with the league and get fined or anything for going into the stands. My wife and kids need all that money,” began Hardrick with a chuckle in a chat with bluebombers.com. “I still love the fans. You can tell the fans I’ll bring it back.”

It’s not like what Hardrick has served up in the meantime has been any less entertaining.

He’s done somersaults and rolls. He’s done slides and glides. And last week one of his celebrations featured him jumping on the goal post in the end zone in what will unofficially be known as the ‘Hardrick Hug.’

“I can’t name them all,” Hardrick said. “I’m probably going to stay away now from hugging the goal post, because I think that was the only one where we missed the convert after that. So, I’ll stay away from that.

“I’m going to keep rolling, though. My elbow is sore – I’m not sure if that’s from the game or the rolls – but we’re going to keep up with the Hardrick Rolls.

“Everything I plan never happens. So, everything that happens out here… I have this big master plan about what I’m going to do and then I watch the game afterward and say, ‘I can’t believe I did that.’ None of what you’ve seen is planned, but we do talk before the game that if we score, we’re going to do this type of thing or that type of thing. And then we score, and you see the flags running, you see the crowd going and I become just a six-year-old kid at that point.”

Those moments capture the Hardrick spirit in a flash, and that’s not just him on game day, but every day in practice. It’s also both refreshing and fun, especially in a day and age in which the natural exuberance of an athlete can be stifled.

Those TD celebrations – plus his hoisting teammates up on his shoulders after a score – are all part of his work hard but enjoy the moment approach to the game and to life.

“I love to have fun. I tell people all the time, ‘Work hard, no one cares. But don’t forget to have fun.’ I’m going to have fun out there,” Hardrick said.

“You know what? A lot goes into scoring touchdowns. There’s not a lot of one-play drives in pro football. So, you grind, and grind and you grind and when you get rewarded for it… it’s a team thing but we (O-line) don’t get any stats or anything other than the team scoring. That’s why we just want to get in on the fun.

“If you’re here at practice and see me every day, you know that’s just me. It’s OK to have fun in sports, but you have a lot more fun in sports when you’re winning, and we’ve been winning around here for the last couple of years and winning this year.

“You won’t see that when we’re losing,” he added, “but if we’re up 10-20 points at home in front of a sold-out crowd? You just need to put a quarter in me and watch me go.”

RETURNING TO THE SCENE:

The Blue Bombers will be at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton for Saturday’s game against the Tiger-Cats for the first time since last December’s Grey Cup win.

And with that, undoubtedly, will come a flood of emotions and memories.

“It’s human. I mean, if Kyrie (Wilson) was travelling he had a season-ender,” said head coach Mike O’Shea of Wilson’s Grey Cup clinching interception last December. “That’s pretty impressive to end like that. Lots of guys will have fond memories like that, whether it’s on the field regarding a certain play or being around their guys. You don’t stifle those memories in any case.”

Deatrick Nichols had his hand in the Wilson interception, first tipping a Jeremiah Masoli pass before it was scooped up off the ground and flicked to Wilson by Winston Rose.

“Of course,” said Nichols of the memories that will come back upon returning to the stadium. “But it’s a new year, we’re on a new goal. Of course, once you arrive it’s ‘I did this, I did that’ but – and I don’t want to sound like a broken record – but once the ball gets kicked it’s a new game.”

A SNEAK PEEK:

The CFL unveiled 10 names from each team’s negotiation list on Thursday, allowing fans a sneak peek at what prospects make up each team’s 45-player list – meaning they hold that player’s CFL rights.

The 10 names revealed from the Blue Bombers list include three quarterbacks in Malik Cunningham of the University of Louisville, Mark Gronowski of South Dakota State and Carson Strong of Nevada, who was last with the Philadelphia Eagles before his release in August.

Also on the list are three OL in Adrian Ealy (Oklahoma), Jaryd Jones-Smith (Pittsburgh and Tyrone Wheatley (Morgan State), WR Josh Johnson (Tulsa), two DEs in Sharif Finch (Temple) and Wyatt Ray (Boston College) and DB Terrell Bonds of Tennessee State.


Bet Regal has the Blue Bombers are 7.5-point favourites for Saturday’s Hall of Fame Game in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats:

  • The Blue Bombers are 7-0 on the road this season; Hamilton is 3-3 at home. Winnipeg has already clinched a playoff berth and can secure a home game in the postseason with a win and a Calgary loss to B.C. later Saturday night.

The Ticats over-under point total is currently set at 19.5:

  • Hamilton is averaging 20.9 points per game this year, currently ranked 7th in the CFL. Winnipeg is third at 28.6.
  • Worth noting: Zach Collaros leads the CFL with 26 passing TDs and is third in yards at 3,236. Ticat QB Dane Evans leads the league in interceptions with 13 and a lost fumbles with six. The Ticats are 0-5 vs. the West Division.

Check out the CFL’s Blitz Picks, presented by BetRegal, here.