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Tait: Hardrick is celebrating his 100th game

It’s right there in his job description as an offensive lineman: Be physical and push people around on run plays and play protector when the quarterback falls back to pass.

Of course, it helps when a guy can infuse a healthy dose of nasty and annoying into his game. Game in, game out. day in day out

So here’s a question: Aside from the three hours on game day – and during the individual sessions in practice – why does Jermarcus Hardrick, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ all-star right tackle, have that permanent grin? apparently etched on his mug?

“I used to stare out the window when I was a kid. I thought the whole world was just like Northern Mississippi, just like what I saw out that window,” Hardrick began in a lengthy chat with bluebombers.com on Wednesday. “We had nothing to do. We had no wifi, no computer… I thought I got lucky when we went to my grandma’s house. and we gotta rotate these old phones. That was my upbringing. And that’s one of the reasons I appreciate everything. Every day is a holiday. Every meal is a banquet. That’s what I live on.”

Friday night in Ottawa, Hardrick will slip on his No. 51 jersey, pull up the chin strap of his gold helmet, and then buckle up for a couple hours of combat at the scrimmage line.

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Jermarcus Hardrick celebrates his 100th CFL game in Ottawa on Friday night (Jason Halstead/CFL.ca).

It’s a routine he’s done so many times that it’s become almost robotic for the Mississippi product. But Friday is different. Friday is special because it will mark the 100th regular-season game in his nine-year career in the Canadian Football League, which began in 2014 with 12 games as a member of the BC Lions and then took him to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for eight games in 2015, found in 2016 his game and a home with the Blue Bombers.

“One hundred games… my wife and I talked about it,” he said. “Last week we sat down and almost got emotional. My freshman year in the league was 2014 and we were just talking about my first game with the Lions. We had a child at the time and Junior was crawling all over the floor as a one year old.

“I remember at the time saying, ‘Man, I can’t wait to say I’ve played 50 games in this league.’ I played my 50th game in 2017 and she baked me a cake for that game. We then joked that if I made it to 100 it would be a big deal. It just feels great. I know a lot of guys have done more but for me it’s big.”

It could be said that nobody in the CFL values ​​the sense of teamwork and belonging more than Hardrick. It comes in part from his upbringing in Mississippi. But that appreciation also comes from bouncing all over the professional football map before arriving in Winnipeg – and the emotion that emanates from all that rejection.

“It’s the fear of being cut,” Hardrick explained. “It’s the fear of having to tell my wife, ‘We’re going home.’ The fear of having to tell my kids I’m not playing for the Bombers anymore.”

“Here’s a story from this off-season – the club issued a (press release) that they had signed two offensive tackles. I just trembled when I saw that. I texted Matt (Gulakov, the Blue Bombers’ director of football operations) and told him, ‘It’s on’. It was supposed to be my day off, but I went and trained because of the fear of being replaced, the fear that my family and I wouldn’t be coming back to Winnipeg.

“I love competition, but that fear can be a motivator. You can’t take any of this for granted. My biggest thing is that I wake up every day and I want to make sure my kids can go to school where I am. If I get circumcised, my kids in Winnipeg won’t be able to go to school.

“I remember bad days, man, so that’s wonderful for me. Just seeing my kids running around… I didn’t have a father and that’s my biggest motivation to be there for my kids. I wanted a father to throw the ball with me. I want to be there when Junior comes home and wants to talk about football, when he wants to talk about life. I get emotional thinking about it, these are things I’ve dreamed about.”

In Hardrick’s first CFL game, he disguised himself as the Lions’ extra offensive lineman and took the field in the “jumbo” short-yardage package. Admittedly lost then, he is now one of the proudest flag-wavers for the CFL game, both here in Winnipeg and during the offseason at his home base in Lincoln, NE.

“When I first arrived here, I didn’t know anything about Canadian football,” he said. “I didn’t know what the relationship was like. I knew very little about the yard off the ball or anything about the CFL. Now I google “CFL history” at least once a week and am always trying to learn more about the CFL.

“I’ve said this before, but Winnipeg saved my life; changed my life. When I got here they said they liked me but wanted me to lose weight. I was about 350 and they had a weight clause in my contract – I had to get under 320 pounds in five months. As I did so, I felt like I had backpacks off my knees.

“But it’s more than that. I’ve made friends here that will last forever. I’ve been on many teams, but it’s different here. When I came here it was all about me, just making the team. And then O’Sh taught me about teamwork and loving the man next to you.”

Every day is a holiday. Every meal is a banquet.

JERMARCUS HARDRICK, AN INSIGHT

Hardrick credits his coach Mike O’Shea with creating an environment for players to thrive in Winnipeg (The Canadian Press)

Toughest defender he’s faced in his first 99 CFL games:

“It has to be Jamal Westerman when he was here (with Winnipeg). He was the first guy to keep me up all week. And then when we played against him, he kept me awake for a week afterwards.”

Best offensive lineman he’s ever seen:

“Stanley Bryant. It’s not even close. He is a future hall of fame.”

Funniest player:

“Pat Neufeld. People won’t know that because they’re not in the orienteering room. He has a dry sense of humour.”

Favorite road trip:

“Sask. It’s the environment. You know when you get there it’s going to be a big game. Whether it’s Labor Day or Banjo Bowl, it’s big.”

favorite musician

“Kevin Gates. It’s not even about the message, it’s more about the vibe and the big beats. When I hear this, it’s time to go.

Actor he would like to play in a movie about his life:

“Denzel Washington). I’m not going to sell myself short. Denzel will play me. It’s going to be a ‘Training Day’ vibe.”

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