May 17, 2023

“I never would have thought I’d be up here playing football.”

True story: Jamieson Sheahan – a proud product of Bendigo, Australia, which just so happens to be some 15,000 kilometres from Winnipeg – spent his youth dreaming of a career playing for the Bombers. No, not our Blue Bombers but the Essendon Bombers of the Australian Football League.

And so, this story is as much about the many roads Sheahan has travelled to get here to the Blue Bombers – from a career with Essendon in the second division of the AFL, the Victorian Football League, to a scholarship at the University of Cal-Berkeley and then all the way to Winnipeg – as it is about perseverance and chasing a dream.

“I was just thinking about that last night. It’s been a wild journey,” began Sheahan in a chat with following another day of Blue Bombers training camp. “This is the fourth type of football I’ve played now. I grew up playing soccer, then switched to Australian Rules Football, then played in America in college and now I’m up here in Canada.

“Quite the journey… I never would have thought I’d be up here playing football. I didn’t even think I would leave Australia because my dream was to play football there. But here I am in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I had to do some Googling before I got here.”

The Blue Bombers selected Sheahan in the first round, eighth overall, of the CFL’s Global Draft earlier this month. The club had conducted Zoom calls with the 26-year-old prior to the draft and were convinced of his interest when he sent them 20 minutes of clips of him kicking a traditional spiral punt, not the Aussie rules end-over-end kicks he would use at Cal that date back to his days in the AFL.

The day of the CFL Global Draft he was actually in the gym getting a workout in when he got a call from Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea.

“This is my second Bombers team,” he said with a chuckle. “When Winnipeg drafted me in the Global Draft, I thought it was pretty fitting I was ‘back’ with the Bombers.”

Sheahan was first alerted to the North American style of football by Nathan Chapman of Prokick Australia. A former punter with the Green Bay Packers, Chapman reached out to Sheahan at a perfect time – he was recovering from reconstructive shoulder surgery when the injury flared up again and was going to shelve him for most of the 2019 VFL season.

“He told me I should come down and give American football a go,” said Sheahan. “I came and kicked with him, and he told me within a few months he could have me on scholarship in the U.S. I said, ‘No worries’ gave up Australian football, took up American, and about four months later I had committed to play for Cal. Another six months later I was there with feet on the ground.”

Sheahan spent three years with the Bears, serving as the primary punter over the past two seasons. Last year he was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection after posting a 45.1-yard average. He declared for the NFL Draft and after not being selected, was hoping for a mini-camp invitation with the same response consistently being fed back: teams wanted more evidence of spiral punts, not Aussie kicks. The Blue Bombers wanted to see that, too – leading to the 20 minutes of clips he sent them – and the evidence has been there to see since his arrival in camp after completing his capstone thesis in student athlete mental health that helped him earn his Master’s degree at Cal.

“He’s a good guy and a very good punter,” said O’Shea of Sheahan. “He has the ability to stretch the field a little bit with his leg, but what really is interesting with the Aussies is they can really place the ball very effectively. He puts the ball where he is supposed to the majority of times. He has every kick in his quill.”

And that’s an aspect of his skillset that could help Sheahan, should he grab the punting chores over incumbent Marc Liegghio and Karl Schmitz, the other Global punter in camp.

“I look at it like a golf bag – I’ve got a number of different clubs in the bag that I can pull out at any time in any different type of conditions,” he said. “A bit more wind you might try something else, kicking with the wind you might do something… rain, snow – I know it gets cold up here – it’s a real advantage. I can try to make it spin either way off my foot, so I can face one way and kick another, do the reverse. I’m working on a traditional spiral, but all that other stuff comes really naturally, and I’ve always got that in my back pocket as well.”

Consistency will be key for Sheahan through camp and into the preseason as the club continues studying and researching their new prospect. Just as Sheahan did when Googling Winnipeg after being drafted by the Blue Bombers. And as for the major themes that popped up in his studies about Winnipeg…

“Cold… that was the major theme,” he said with a chuckle. “And then they just give you the idea about rent pricing and all the basic stuff. But when I was Googling the Bombers, it was how successful they’ve been over the past few years and the culture Coach O’Shea has brought in here. And it’s just how you read about how many of the guys in their interviews talk about how much of a team and a family it is here. It was nice to read all that and know I was coming up to a family environment and a really supportive network of people.

“But the first thing that popped up was that it was pretty cold here in the winter.”