February 7, 2024

“I knew where my heart wanted to be”

If Brady Oliveira was truly tempted – and he no doubt had to be intrigued by what might be out there in Canadian Football League free agency – the temptation certainly didn’t last for long.

That’s why the Winnipeg product scribbled his name on a new two-year contract Wednesday to remain with his hometown Blue Bombers. And ultimately, it was that combination of staying home and taking care of some unfinished business that won out over more lucrative offers from at least three CFL rivals.

“It definitely was stressful, I’ll say that. It was a rollercoaster,” began Oliveira during a media zoom call Thursday from Bali, where he is on another dog rescue mission. “I understand the business of it and communication was a little bit quiet at times. I really didn’t know what my future was going to look like. I had great conversations with my agent, who did a tremendous job getting this deal done for me. I really had to kind of look at all options and see where I was going to land. But I knew at the end of the day where I wanted to be, obviously, and now here we are.

“I knew where my heart wanted to be, I just, unfortunately, didn’t know if that was going to happen.”

Even though Oliveira left more money on the table from other teams, he did get a substantial raise from his 2023 salary in a deal that will reportedly pay him $230,000 this season and $240,000 in 2025.

The importance of fit, familiarity and workload are always factors in free agency and often more valuable factors than the numbers on a paycheque. Oliveira is the Blue Bombers offensive workhorse – he had just under 300 touches in 2023 in leading the CFL in rushing and yards from scrimmage – and that number could grow even further.

And never ever underestimate the power of doing all that in the town where a guy was born and raised – especially with the 2025 Grey Cup game coming to Winnipeg in less than two years.

“It’s my hometown and it’s a big reason why I’m back.” Oliveira said. “I needed to be back in that locker room with my guys, with the ties that I have to all the coaches there and the loyalties that I have to them. I know we have something good building there. We’ve shown it the last couple of years, and I know we can continue to make this run. It’s exciting and that’s why I wanted to sign a two-year deal back.

“The conversation I’ve had with other guys is pushing to, ‘Hey, let’s stick this thing around through 2025 and try to get to the Grey Cup and win it in Winnipeg.’ Obviously, for me, that would be everything I could dream of – winning a Grey Cup in my hometown would be special.

“… I know what I can do. I know I’m just scratching the surface. I want to be a big part to help this team get to another Grey Cup and ultimately win another Grey Cup for the city.”

Oliveira’s media session from Bali came with two rescue dogs playing in the background. He picked up one of them – little Lulu – to showcase on camera and indicated she was discovered abandoned in a cemetery and will need to have one eye removed but is well on her way to recovery.

His animal rescue passion will continue well after his playing days are done and the connections he’s made locally in that area also played a huge part in his decision to stay.

“When it came down to looking at my options for this upcoming season my heart is just tied to Winnipeg,” he said. “I’m a proud Winnipegger and I absolutely love the city. My family is there, my friends are there and there are so many opportunities for me off the field.

“But the biggest thing is all the charitable work I do in the city and a big one is the animal rescue efforts I do with K-9 Advocacy and the Winnipeg Humane Society and all the work I do in these First Nation communities across northern Manitoba. I was thinking although I’m very busy during the season I still make time to head up to these communities and support them and assist wherever I can. If I went to another team, I couldn’t do that for six months.”

“I was thinking about everything, and it was, ‘You know what? I can’t leave. I need to be in Winnipeg for a multitude of reasons.’ Obviously, my teammates being the first reason. I needed to come back for my guys. But also, the other stuff I do off the field. Like I said, my heart is tied to Winnipeg it feels like forever. I could never see myself leaving. I’m just thrilled that we got this done.”

The next steps for Oliveira are simple: he wants to continue to be available for his team for every snap of every game, further hone his skills as a receiver out of the backfield and – most importantly – rid his mouth of that bitter taste from the last two Grey Cup defeats.
“It’s not just one championship. ChampionSHIPS. I want to be a massive part in that. We’ve got to go finish this thing off the right way.

“When it comes down to legacy, you look at guys and how many championships they’ve won is one thing, but were they a massive part in winning those championships? I always look at a guy like Andrew (Harris), a guy I looked up to my entire life and a guy that I’ll always look up to even though he’s retired now. He taught me a lot. And you look at his career, he won a lot of championships, and he was a massive part of winning those championships. And that’s exactly what I want to do.

“I’m hungry. I’m hungrier than ever. It’s in my mind, and we’ve just got to take that out on our opponent every single week and just finish this thing off the right way this year.”