Bombers O-lineman praised for improving football skills and IQ as role set to expand



A professional career that spanned two countries is about to take off for Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Geoff Gray, who is set for a starting role.

The eighth overall pick in 2017 renewed his two-year contract with the Blue Bombers in January, after playing five games last season. Although he played 19 Canadian Football League games in three seasons with the Blue Bombers, Gray is confident of taking on an expanded role this year.

“I’m super happy to have been with the Bombers and to have that continuity,” Gray said after Wednesday’s training camp at IG Field. “I’ve kind of been on and off the pitch throughout, but the time I’ve been on the pitch has been good for learning.”

The 27-year-old Winnipeg native first signed with the club in October 2018 after pursuing NFL opportunities with the Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns. He said the experience was good for his career.


DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Geoff Gray has earned praise from teammates and coach for everything from his work ethic to his cooking.

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DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Geoff Gray has earned praise from teammates and coach for everything from his work ethic to his cooking.

“Everything in the NFL is a great learning opportunity,” Gray said. “It’s good to be surrounded by different coaches and different systems.”

“The move is definitely not the most fun and it’s nice to have that continuity here,” he added.

During Wednesday’s training camp session, Gray worked closely with 2021 CFL Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Stanley Bryant. The two lined up next to each other for most of the afternoon and communicated every time the whistle sounded on Winnipeg’s offensive run.

“He’s smart, he plays well when he gets the chance to play, and he knows all the positions,” Bryant said. “I’m just happy for him to have the chance to come and play and show what he can really do.”

“He’s smart, he plays well when he gets the chance to play and knows all the positions. I’m just happy for him to have the chance to come and play and show what he can really do.
—Stanley Bryant

Winnipeg allowed a league-low 16 sacks in the 2021 season thanks to the protection of Bryant and the rest of the offensive line. Bryant said mentoring Gray as he evolves into an expanded role is critical for his development and consistency within the team.

“Every O lineman that comes in, he buys in and when it’s time to step in, he steps in and plays well,” Bryant said. “They believe it all starts up front and we’re proud of that. We’re opening up Zach’s protection, we’re opening up holes for the ball carriers and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”

While Gray has been recognized for his skills on the court, he is highly regarded by his teammates for his abilities in the kitchen. Not only does he play a key role in keeping Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros safe, but he also keeps him happy by making sure he’s well fed.

“Last year for the West final he had quite a gap,” Collaros said. “I think it was beef tartare that tasted like Big Mac, it had everything.”




<p>DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Gray, a 27-year-old Winnipeg native, first signed with the Bombers in October 2018 after pursuing opportunities in the NFL.</p>
<p>” width=”1023″ height=”683″ srcset=”https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/400*400/GRAY+DOWN.jpg 400w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/600 *600/GRAY+DOWN.jpg 600w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/700*700/GRAY+DOWN.jpg 700w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/800*800/GRAY +DOWN.jpg 800w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/900*900/GRAY+DOWN.jpg 900w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/1000*1000/GRAY+DOWN.jpg 1000w”/><figcaption>
<p>DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Gray, a 27-year-old Winnipeg native, first signed with the Bombers in October 2018 after pursuing opportunities in the NFL.</p>
</figcaption></figure>
<p>Beyond Gray’s culinary chops, the Winnipeg starting quarterback sees him as a great person for the team’s culture and praised him for his physique and high football IQ.			</p>
<p>“I know the guys like it in this room, so it’ll be fine,” he said.			</p>
<p>Football’s high IQ and character are traits that also stand out in Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea.  He said that as Gray evolved into the expanded role, he continued to show aspects of his game that the team had loved for years.			</p>
<p>In a sport that requires a great deal of intricate detail, O’Shea isn’t shy about pointing out the little things about Gray’s game that make him an important part of the team’s identity.			</p>
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“If you watch him closely, you’ll see Geoff Gray on the pitch,” O’Shea said. “I know everyone sees Jermarcus running around like crazy, but in a game you’ll also see Geoff Gray on the court, always finishing his blocks, which is great to see.”

Gray is ready to step in wherever needed with the season fast approaching.

“Whatever my role, I’m going to give it my all when I’m on the pitch,” Gray said. “Ideally you want to be on the pitch, so I’m going to give it my all in pre-season and we’ll see what happens from there.”

gavin.axelrod@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: Gavin77axe