Mental Toughness is Good, Spiritual Toughness is Great
For the first time in 29 years, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are Canadian Football League champions.Despite battling much adversity all season long, the Bombers — led by all-star running back and local Winnipeg product Andrew Harris — overcame two notable quarterback injuries and a near-impossible, road-heavy playoff schedule, ending the drought for long-suffering fans of the Blue and Gold in Manitoba’s capital.
Harris — who became the first player ever to earn both the Grey Cup MVP and the Most Outstanding Canadian awards —called it “an ultimate team win”. Head Coach Mike O’Shea spoke proudly of the Blue Bomber fans in his Grey Cup Parade speech. While team Chaplain Lorne Korol said that it was an honour and a blessing just to be around such a “phenomenal group of people”.
“This is, by far, the most special group of players I have ever been a part of,” Korol said. “A word that comes to mind for me is ‘family’. We are a very close-knit team. And I truly think that stems from our Bible study group; it is a strong fellowship. It was a real special group. That transcended across the team, as we had some real prominent members that were involved with the team taking part in our sessions.”
One such player was 30-year-old defensive tackle Drake Nevis. Now in his third year with the team, the six-foot, 300-pound product of LSU was instrumental in helping create and nurture that relational bond between the many members of both the offence and defence as the Bombers’ Chapel Leader.
“It was certainly a journey, and we couldn’t have accomplished what we did without great focus and great leadership,” said Nevis, who recorded one tackle and one sack for seven yards in the Grey Cup.
“We had a strong Bible study group and strong leadership, which helped us get where we did and kept us mentally focused. Christian leadership helps bring that most important aspect to where your focus is. Mental toughness is good, but spiritual toughness is great.”
Prior to winning the 107th Grey Cup, Nevis was named the 2019 recipient of the Athletes in Action Gord Barwell Award, given annually to the player who best exhibits exemplary Christian conduct and godly leadership on and off the field, as voted upon by the Athletes in Action team chaplains.
“Drake does such a good job for our football club,” Korol said. “Taking on the role of Chapel Leader is no simple task. And winning that Barwell Award as the top Christian athlete… it was just so well deserved. So many people contributed to that award, including Drake’s wife Reese, who leads our wives’ Bible study every second week, as the girls behind the men in the masks. We have a significant opportunity to do good with the largest platform we have in Canadian football. I was really impressed with Drake and the guys.”
“It is a tremendous feeling, but I also understand that it’s a responsibility to pass the message and do right by other people,” Nevis reflected. “It’s a great blessing, but with every blessing comes much responsibility. It would take a long time to list out all the guys who come out and show up for Bible study; we know we had a really special group. It wasn’t just our own strength, we had the Father backing us up. Nothing was automatic. We had to earn it with great focus, and that came from us being focused both on and off the field.”
“Winning the Grey Cup was a bigtime faith encourager, especially considering what the team had been through with injuries this year,” Nevis continued. “Personally, it was amazing for me and my wife. We continue to trust God because He never let us down. It came at a crucial time to where we wanted to show people that as long as you stay focused, it can be a faith encourager for us to keep going. Now we have something to show people. He does honour your faithfulness. He doesn’t forget the time you spent trying to please him. It was a great honour.”
For many, winning the game’s greatest prize is met with much partying and wild celebration. By no means did Nevis avoid participating in the festivities surrounding the championship parade and celebration, however, he wasn’t about to let his new title of ‘Grey Cup champion’ get in the way of his regularly scheduled activity —helping out at a local downtown ministry, Love Lives Here.
Following the multi-hour parade through Winnipeg’s core, Nevis and his wife Reese made their way down to 150 Henry Street to hand out trays of leftover food from the Blue Bombers’ parade. With their Canadian Work Visas set to expire immediately following the completion of the 2019 CFL season, the two active volunteers were able to fit in one last visit before heading back south for the winter.
“That’s just the way they are,” Korol said. “When my wife Heather and I saw that story in the news, we just kind of said, ‘why should that surprise us?’. We have just been really blessed to have them on our team. That is just the kind of people that they are.”