Half-time - Chris Streveler (1)
There are any number of layers and storylines to Chris Streveler’s return to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers that make it such a compelling narrative.
There’s his ability as a battering ram short-yardage specialist and the potential wrinkles offensive coordinator Buck Pierce might incorporate into his attack for 2024. There’s a still-to-be-tapped passing skillset that, based on his gaudy college numbers, would scream possibility.
There’s the energy and leadership he brings to the locker room daily and how that is so infectious to the entire organization. And, of course, there is his legendary status as one of the heroes in the 2019 Grey Cup championship run – and the celebration afterward – that has placed him as one of the most popular No. 2 pivots in Canadian Football League history.
Ultimately though, the single most important element to his second act with the Blue Bombers is a simple one after parts of four seasons down south. And let’s open with having him explain that himself…
“Professional football is a grind, and it doesn’t matter where you are whether it’s the CFL or the NFL,” began Streveler in a chat with bluebombers.com from his offseason base in Scottsdale, AZ. “But all that uncertainty… I’ve been sitting at home since August not knowing what’s going to happen and having to live my life that way. It just got to the point where I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to be at home wondering.
“I want to be excited about playing and the motivation to come up there and help a team win games. There’s really nothing more motivating than that because when you’re not on a team and you don’t know if you’re ever going to play again, you’re waiting for that opportunity.
“And so I’m just really, really excited to play football again, it’s as simple as that. The NFL… it’s been exciting, it’s been awesome, and it was an amazing experience that changed my life. But I just haven’t really played. This last year has been hard with the injury (to the thumb on his throwing hand) to being in limbo, to doing workouts that aren’t real opportunities. I was cut six times, and I just got the point where I was just fed up with it and now I’m ready to get back north and play some football.”
That sentiment reached its peak just a few weeks ago after Streveler was flown in by the Chicago Bears for a look-see, but ultimately left that tryout frustrated. That’s when he began to put the feelers out to CFL teams, with the Blue Bombers clearly at the top of his list – although other clubs most certainly were interested.
Why, in the end, is it Winnipeg again?
“It’s the people, man. That’s what it came down to,” said Streveler. “The people in that locker room and so many guys I still keep in touch with to this day – and it’s been five years since I left. It’s the staff. It’s people like Darren (Cameron, Senior Director of Public and Player Relations). It’s Osh (head coach Mike O’Shea) and the culture he’s built is something that really resonates with me. I feel like I fit in really well with that.
“The city and the fans continued to show me love in every step of this journey. When I went back last September for the Banjo Bowl that continued to show out and that meant a lot to me. There are a ton of reasons why Winnipeg is special to me and why I wanted to be back there as opposed to anywhere else.”
The Chris Streveler that walks through the locker room doors this season is light years from the player right out of college who arrived in Winnipeg in 2018. He essentially grew up on the job with the Blue Bombers and parlayed that into his several looks in the NFL. Now he’s eager to take what he’s learned down south into the locker room here – and onto the field.
“I don’t really have any expectations for my role,” he said. “I talked to Zach (Collaros) already, just got off the phone with Buck and I told him, ‘I’m just excited to work with everybody and whatever you need me to do to help the team to win games, that’s what I’m going to do.’ That’s what I’ve always said throughout my career and that’s what I’m going to continue to say.
“But it is going to be in more of a leadership role as a guy that’s been a professional for a number of years now. It’s just a very different dynamic than a guy coming in and trying to earn his way on his team. In the NFL it’s tough when you don’t know if you even have a spot on the team and you don’t know if your locker is going to be cleaned out when you get in on any given day. That uncertainty can make it hard to thrive.”
“So, this is a different dynamic coming into a team I’m familiar with, with guys I love, coaches… staff… players… fans… there’s just so much love there for me. It’s just exciting to go somewhere where what I bring to the table is appreciated.
“In the NFL I was in the room with a lot of guys who really changed the way I view the game,” he added. “I’m really excited to put the things I’ve learned while being in the room with Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Teddy Bridgewater, Colt McCoy, Lamar (Jackson), Tua (Tagovailoa), Kyler (Murray). I’m excited now to bring that knowledge up to Winnipeg and share that with guys and hopefully make our team better.”
Streveler is off to Australia this weekend to be the best man in Drew Wolitarsky’s wedding in a town on the continent’s west coast called Dunsborough.
“It’s probably the most random place you could have a wedding, but that’s my guy,” Streveler said with a laugh. “He’s been a friend for 10-plus years and when you get an opportunity to go and support a friend like that, you do it.
“It’s going to be a wild wedding and an opportunity to go to a place I’ve never been to in Australia. And it’s also not easy to get there. You fly to Sydney, which is 15 hours. Then you fly to Perth, which is another six and then you’ve got to get a rental car and drive another 2 ½ hours.
“I never would have ever gone to this place if it wasn’t for him, but we started in Minnesota (in university), we’ve been to Canada together, we’re going to Australia and who knows what happens next? It’s really about the people you meet along the way and that’s one of my best friends.”
The final, big picture layer to all this came back in May of 2018. Fresh from putting up gaudy numbers at South Dakota, Streveler jumped at a chance to sign with the Blue Bombers in a town he knew very little about. All these years later, that decision seems so, well, life changing.
“It’s funny, man,” Streveler said, pausing for a moment. “You know, I think back to when I first came to Winnipeg just for the chance to compete for the third-string job. And then Darian Durant retires and now the second-string job is open. Then Matt Nichols gets hurt on the last day of camp and I’m starting. Without that opportunity, without me making the jump to the CFL, I never would have made it to the NFL. That’s the truth.
“So much of this game is A) betting on yourself, B) being ready for your opportunity when it comes and C) being at the right place at the right time. I feel very fortunate that throughout my career professionally I’ve been at the right place at the right time and taken advantage of my opportunities. When I’m not playing my mindset was always, ‘Work hard and do what you can to stay ready so that you don’t have regrets.’
“It’s been a special journey and it’s not over by any means. I know I keep telling you about how excited I am, but it’s legit because it’s really all I can think about.”