March 12, 2023

“I have a lot to prove to myself” | 1st & 10 column

Brady Oliveira has so many good stories to tell, every single one of them providing ample evidence of the value of his work helping rescue dogs here in Manitoba and now in places like Mexico and Bali.

Sometimes, however, it’s the sad stories – the dogs he and his girlfriend Alex Blumberg couldn’t rescue – that stick with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back and yank at his heart strings just as much as the good ones.

And on the day caught up with Oliveira upon his return to Winnipeg after three-plus months rescuing dogs in Bali, it was the story of ‘Otis’ that he was using to provide prospective.


“Otis was a dog we unfortunately had to put down,” began Oliveira. “We were fighting to get him healthy, but the time was done for him and that was one of the toughest parts of the trip. He was an old dog that was left for dead at the beach. We did everything we could to give him the taste of a good life. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long – he was only in our care for 2-3 weeks — but we gave him the absolute most love we could possibly give him. It was just heartbreaking, because we were physically there when we had to put him down. I just wish we could have got to him sooner.

“And so, it’s not always going to be lollipops and rainbows, by any means. That’s why you need to celebrate the small victories because you’re never going to be able to help them all. Those that we are able to help, it just brings such fulfillment and joy to help dogs and transform them and see them change, see their personalities come out. It’s an awesome experience.

“But there were also times in Bali where there were lots of tears. For people who haven’t truly experienced the front-line workings of animal rescue, it is emotionally draining and exhausting. The things I see daily when I’m on rescue runs – whether they are in Manitoba or Mexico or Bali – there’s lots of moments I wish I could unsee. But we need to do that frontline work.”

Oliviera’s work recuing dogs has given him a lot of notoriety here in Manitoba and across the Canadian Football League. But in places like Mexico and Bali — thanks largely to his ‘Running Back to the Rescue’ series through ‘The Dodo’, an animal rescue site with over 13 million followers and available on various social media channels – Oliveira is the dog rescuer who also happens to play football.

“I love being known as ‘that dog guy’ or ‘the dog rescuer,’” he said with a chuckle. “I love having that label. I have two passions on the go right now and I’ve worked my butt off to take the football in a good direction.”

The couple spent last offseason in Mexico helping rescue dogs and this winter opted to head to Bali, in southeast Asia.

“We knew how bad the dog situation was there with thousands and thousands of street dogs and so it was a place where we felt we could help make an impact,” he said. “The trip was next level, one of the best I’ve ever taken because a lot of good work was done.

“I mean, if you can somehow live out your calling while travelling it feels even brighter. We were in a beautiful part of the world enjoying the culture, the good food and the beautiful beaches, but were still able to give back. It was just so incredible, man.

“Everyone in the world should find something they are truly passionate about and what drives them to wake up every single morning and do what they love,” he added. “I’m fortunate to play football – a game which has given me so much and meet so many amazing people. Obviously, I want to continue that for years to come. I plan on playing into my 30s.

“But a strong passion of mine is animal rescue, and this is something I want to do after football.”

More on Oliveira and his two passions – football and animal rescue – in our latest edition of 1st & 10

1. Oliveira and Blumberg film and edit all their ‘Running Back to the Rescue’ episodes themselves. And given their popularity on The Dodo – this episode has over 1.4 million views – there have been discussions of selling the concept to networks like Netflix, Disney and Amazon for next season.

“I always say that dogs bring people together and if we had a show where people are rescuing dogs all over the world, I think that would be a hit,” Oliveira explained. “That’s our big vision with this: to be able to travel the world and show people all these beautiful places, but also show how to get involved and helped while travelling.

“I mean, I’m just a normal Joe in Bali and I happened to see a dog on the side of the road and maybe this can help educate people on how they can help whether that is taking the dog to the local vet or reaching out the local rescue.

“Every episode would be a different place in the world, and I think people would be interested and in tune with that. Plus, the bigger budget would then allow us to help and save more dogs and that’s the biggest thing for me — I just want to be around dogs and around animals. That’s what makes me happy, trying to help as many street dogs as possible.”

Oliveira said he hopes to play football into his 30s, but dog rescue will forever be in his life. He and Blumberg have also discussed the idea of starting a foundation and registered charity to help and perhaps establish a local sanctuary for dogs who need round-the-clock treatment, while also promoting adoption.

“My girlfriend and I are obviously very passionate about this,” he said. “We both know this is what we want to do with our lives – help save as many dogs as possible and be their voice. I think we make an awesome team.”

2. Make no mistake, Oliveira has also continued to work tirelessly this offseason to build on his 2022 – a year in which he struggled to establish himself early, before cranking out a 1,000-yard campaign. He trained Monday through Friday during his days in Bali, religiously following the regimen outlined to him by his trainers.

“This is the best shape I’ve been in in a very long time,” he said.

And like so many of his teammates, Oliveira has been fuelled this winter by the one-point Grey Cup loss last November that ended the club’s shot at three consecutive championships.

“Looking back at last year and how it ended for us… that sour taste is definitely going to be in all of our mouths” Oliveira admitted. “It’s definitely in mine. None of us were happy at all with how it ended.

“That outcome has been fuel for the offseason. I never really stopped. I took a week off from training and then I was in the gym a week after the Grey Cup.

“I still have a lot to prove to myself and I want to go on the field this year and do everything I can to help us win another Grey Cup because I know we can.”

3. Big news in the CFL this week with the sale of the Montreal Alouettes to Pierre Karl Péladeau, a Quebec businessman and president/CEO Quebecor Inc, who has a reported net worth of $1.9 billion.

Péladeau’s introductory press conference lasted for over an hour on Friday and the new owner spoke passionately about the importance of the franchise to the market and the CFL.

“The Montreal Alouettes are not only a business, it’s more than a business,” said Péladeau, who becomes the first local owner since Leo Dandurand founded the original Alouettes in 1946. “It’s about community investment. It’s about being here, being strong and create (something) Montrealers can be proud of.”

The sale is significant not just because Péladeau is local, but also due to its impact to the rest of the CFL. The league had been operating the franchise since the opening of free agency and, according to CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, had ownership interest from 10 parties.

Worth noting, too, is this: before the Alouettes were sold to the late Sid Spiegel and Gary Stern – the group that owned the team before this latest transaction – the league operated the club during the 2019 season. The Blue Bombers share of helping run the Alouettes that year was $657,600.

4. Interesting to see if the sale of the Alouettes to a local ownership might move the needle at all for a 10th franchise in Halifax – a dream that was first born in the 1980s, had seemingly gained traction prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and has since lost momentum.

Now there’s news of the pop-up stadium Saint Mary’s University – the site of this year’s Touchdown Atlantic game in July – being kept intact long-term as a possible future home for a CFL team.

As someone who lived in Halifax in the late 70s when these rumours first hatched and still believes it would be a wonderful market, paint me as ‘skeptically optimistic’, if that’s a term.

5. Update on a story we brought to you in our last 1st & 10 and Pat Neufeld’s involvement in the CFL’s Player Mentorship Program.

The CFL gave Neufeld and five other CFL players the chance to see some of the inner workings of the league – to ‘pull back the curtain’ as he explained it – and the veteran Blue Bomber lineman, who wants to continue working with the club in some capacity when his playing days are done, raved about the experience.

A detailed story about the experience by Chris O’Leary of can be found here:

6. Rasheed Bailey surprised many across the CFL when he opted to return to the Blue Bombers after hitting the free agent market last month, choosing to stay in Winnipeg rather than accept more-lucrative offers from at least two other teams.

Bailey, who brings his passion and emotion to everything he does, has started a podcast – ‘Show Time Speaks’ – and in his first episode, titled ‘Winnipeg’, he addresses his decision right from the outset.

“In this situation I was not willing to walk away,” said Bailey. “Things were on the table, things were happening. It got ugly… this, that and whatever emotion goes along with this whole process. But there’s one thing that stood out the most – where my heart was, where it never left. A place where in that locker room and in that building is where I found a home.

“A place where we’ve celebrated, where we’ve won championships. We bled together, we cried together, we lost together.”

7. Two cool things worth a plug:

Friday was Blue Bombers night for the Winnipeg Ice game against the Edmonton Oil Lings at The Ice Cave and these hockey-themed jerseys look pretty damn cool.

As well, CFL reddit fan u/jtcward used artificial intelligence to come up with artwork for the league’s teams. For those interested, check the AI versions here:

8. The CFL is well into its combine season, with the invitational event completed last week at the University of Waterloo and the main combine running March 22-26 in Edmonton. The event will see players do the traditional medical testing and measurements, following by on and off-field testing that includes the 40 and bench press.

The event has been revamped to see three days of practice sessions, including individual drills and one-on-ones, followed by new pass skeleton and inside run segments. CFL coaches will be helping lead the positional groups, with Blue Bombers offensive line coach Marty Costello, along with Paul Charbonneau of the Ottawa RedBlacks, working with the big eaters.

9. Related to the above: the Blue Bombers have picks in each of the eight rounds of the 2023 CFL Draft, and will select 8th, 15th, 26th, 35th, 44th, 53rd, 62nd and 71st overall.

10. And finally, a bit late here but a salute to all the fantastic women who work for the Winnipeg Football Club and help make it a top-notch championship organization. Some of them are featured here in the International Women’s Day video put together by Josh Kjarsgaard, ICYMI: