Watching 3 Former Players in Gray Cup Game Will Be ‘Surreal’, Winnipeg High School Coach Says

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One was a sponge for coaching advice. We brought joy to every room he entered. And another was so good that he often had to be taken off the football field to give other teams a chance.

On Sunday, Stu Nixon will see three of his former Oak Park High School players in Winnipeg – Andrew Harris, Nic Demski and Brady Oliveira – represent the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Canada’s biggest football game.

“The Gray Cup is going to be exciting when your team is there for sure, isn’t it? But when your elders are all there, it’s almost surreal, ”Nixon said.

Earlier this week, Oak Park students gathered in the gymnasium for a cheering rally ahead of the 108th Gray Cup, which will be played in Hamilton against their hometown Tiger-Cats.

Almost everyone wore blue and gold, and some were holding signs encouraging the Bombers – including a few oversized cutouts of the heads of Harris, Demski, and Oliveira.

“The school was buzzing,” Nixon said.

“There are three from the same school. It’s hard to believe. And [the students are] excited about it. They’re part of that tradition, aren’t they? “

WATCH | Oak Park High School students cheer on football alumni:

Oak Park students cheer on 3 former Raiders on the Bombers roster

Students at Oak Park High School held a pre-Gray Cup cheering rally for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their three home players, Andrew Harris, Nic Demski and Brady Oliveira, all of whom adapted to the Oaks. Park Raiders when they were younger. 1:04

The former football manager, who stepped down a few years ago, was able to watch Harris and Demski win the Canadian Football League championship in 2019.

Oliveira was injured for that game – which means this year’s final marks the first time Nixon will see the three face off in the big game.

A runner, a “real joy” and a record holder

The former football coach said he remembers Harris, now a running back for the Bombers, as a dynamic player even as a skinny 10th grader.

“He was the best football player in the province at his age. Every time you kick him with the ball he scores a touchdown, ”Nixon said.

“No one could catch him. And for a skinny kid, he was really heavy to hit.”

Running back Andrew Harris spoke to the media in Hamilton on Saturday. His former high school football coach remembers him as a dynamic player, even a skinny grade 10 student. (Nick Iwanyshyn / The Canadian Press)

But it wasn’t just Harris’s skills that set him apart in high school.

“He was very coachable. He would listen and do whatever you asked him to do,” Nixon said.

“This is the difference between [him and] talented kids in high school you never hear from again: The talented kids you hear from again are what’s going on in their heads. They don’t allow egos to be a part of it. “

As for what it was like to coach Demski, now a wide receiver for Winnipeg, Nixon said one thing comes to mind.

“It was a real joy,” he said.

“He just brought joy to every class he was in – such a happy, fun loving kid in the gym. His enthusiasm was infectious.”

Nic Demski catches the ball during practice before the 107th Gray Cup in Calgary in 2019. His former high school football coach remembers him as a “real joy” to have with him. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press)

And remembering running back coach Oliveira, Nixon said he remembers a player who – despite being often late on the training ground – worked harder than anyone else. outside, from the weight room to the track.

All of this training created a player who often had to be taken off the field if the team crushed their opponent, which Nixon said happens quite often in the interest of sportsmanship.

The weekend morning show (Manitoba)8:16Oak Park High School cheers on three Gray Cup alumni!

One was a sponge, the other was always late for training but it was a pleasure to train, and the other was so good that they had to be taken out of matches so they didn’t become too unbalanced! Stephanie Cram met Oak Park physical education teacher Stu Nixon, who has three of her former players – Andrew Harris, Nic Demski and Brady Olivera – on the field for today’s Gray Cup. 8:16

“It drove him crazy,” he said. “He hated going out. He was a competitor all the way. He just wanted to come and go.”

But retiring early from all other games didn’t reduce Oliveira’s chances of breaking records while on the pitch, Nixon said.

Brady Oliveira, number 5 in the front row, and his teammates celebrate their 2015 High School Championship victory for the Oak Park Raiders. Stu Nixon, his former team coach, says he broke almost all high school football records. (Submitted by Oak Park High School)

“He broke almost every racing record there was,” he said.

“Literally at least half the games he would only have played two quarterbacks and he still did what he did.”

Prepare for retirement

Nixon is now in his final year as a physical education teacher at Oak Park before his retirement.

He said seeing his former players bring home the Gray Cup – which he expects – would be the perfect way to end his career.

And if there’s one thing he knows about his three former players, it’s that they’re going to give it their all.

“They were so much better than anyone (…) on the pitch, but they were never happy with their own performance,” he said.

“They were always looking for ways to improve. They were, like, eager to be successful.”


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