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November 15, 2022

In My Words | Brady Oliveira

I can’t wait for Sunday. I can’t wait to run out of that tunnel before the 109th Grey Cup with my Winnipeg Blue Bomber brothers and then do everything possible to help bring a third straight championship home.

And when I say home, people should know how much that means to me, as a proud Winnipegger.

I watched from the sidelines in 2019 when we won because even though I had worked my butt off from my injury earlier in the season and I had a great week of practice in Calgary, I knew they weren’t going to mess with a winning line-up and I wouldn’t dress for the Grey Cup. I remember running onto the field to celebrate with my teammates and crying when we won – some of that were tears of joy, obviously, as a lifelong Blue Bombers fan seeing the Grey Cup drought end. But some of it stung because I wasn’t able to help in some way.

Last year was another step, as I got my first start during the year – and at home in front of so many who have helped and supported me – and was able to dress in the Grey Cup in Hamilton. I had a couple of reps on kickoffs in that game and felt that I had at least done my part to help us during the year and got some live action in the Grey Cup.

Now I’m getting to start for my hometown team in the biggest game of my life. I’m so hungry for that. And it’s here where I’d like to try to explain what being hungry means to me.

I know what it’s like to be hungry. I know a lot of people have a certain dread when they open the fridge and it’s empty. And vice-versa, I know there is a satisfaction when you open the door and it’s full.

Maybe, in some way, that’s why I speak so often of running with a ‘hunger’ like I did after our Western Final win or in the importance of always ‘staying hungry.’ That’s part of what drives me.

Some of that goes back to what I went through growing up. It was very tough, and I was around a lot of negativity and saw a lot of things you don’t want to see when you’re a kid. My mom, Shani, raised me and my two siblings – my sister Kallee and my brother Kyle – all by herself. The things we had to go through, all three of us are driven individuals because of it.

I used that as fuel to my fire. I still do. Back then I kept saying, ‘I don’t want my life to be like this. I want it to be different. I want it to be better and I want to set my life up right and start a whole new legacy for my last name and my family.’

It was my dad I was dealing with, with his drug addiction problems that he was suffering with that really ruined our family. It was stuff you don’t want to see. It sucked. It really was terrible.

You talk about hunger – there are days I would open my fridge and there would be nothing there, nothing to eat in the whole house. I grew up in these co-op townhouses in Garden City and I would shovel snow in the winter and cut grass in the summer to try and make some money. It would be for something like a phone, because I had to pay for it, or to help buy food for the house. It was a way to help my mom.

I look back now, and I could have easily turned another way. There were people I saw growing up in similar circumstances to what I went through, and they went another direction, to selling drugs or stealing. I chose not to do that. My mom raised us to be better than that. She raised three amazing kids to be kind, respectful, charismatic. I salute her every single day. She’s one of my ‘Whys’ – why I do this.

So, when I open my fridge now and it’s full, I think about how I worked hard for that. Now I’m just so grateful for everything that has come and will come in my life. The game of football has brought me so many opportunities. I’ve met some of my best friends playing this game and it’s providing for me now so I can go on trips like I did last year to Mexico and will again this January to Bali to fill my other passions, like rescuing stray dogs.

But that hunger – and staying hungry – will never stop for me. I’ll never be satisfied. That’s who I am.

A lot of people when they’re hungry, they think about feeding their appetite. The hunger I feel is more than that – it’s having nothing, wanting something and then once you have it, wanting more.

Taking it back to growing up, I didn’t know back then what tomorrow was going to look like. I didn’t know if my dad was going to come home or if there was going to be food in the fridge. Of course, it’s true now that I don’t know what the next game is going to look like for me. I don’t know what next season is going to look like for me or if I’m going to have this job two years from now. But I do have this hunger, and that keeps me going so that there is no doubt and I leave nothing to chance.

People might not understand this if they haven’ gone through it or lived it. But this is where it came from for me, and why I’m naturally driven. It was almost like I was running away from it, from being hungry in a sense, and I’m not going to let it catch me now. That’s what keeps me going.

This has been my journey and will continue to be my journey. It’s why I keep running hungry and staying hungry. It’s always about filling the fridge for me.

– Brady Oliveira