'It's my kind of town': Bombers coach Mike O'Shea on Winnipeg, family and his fast-food past

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea talks about not being able to share his team's 2019 Grey Cup win with former players.

It was a banner year for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after winning the Grey Cup for the first time since 1990.

While there are many who contributed to the team’s win, there is one man in particular who played an important role — Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea.

Winnipeggers know the bench boss, but few get to know the personal side of the CFL coach.

O’Shea likes to keep his home life private, but in an exclusive one-on-one interview with Global News, the man behind the blue and gold opened up.

He’s a husband and a father of three, and while Winnipeg isn’t his hometown, he says it’s become home.

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“It’s my kind of town,” O’Shea said. “The types of people here just remind me of where I grew up. Hard-working. There’s a real neat entrepreneurial spirit here. I think a lot of people do very interesting things and are very successful in what they do.”

The 49-year-old grew up in North Bay, Ont., but what few may know is that he didn’t start as a football player but, instead, he played hockey.

“Not very well,” he said with a chuckle. “But I was fortunate enough to get cut from all those teams so I landed in football.”

The Edmonton Eskimos picked O’Shea in the first round (fourth overall) in the 1993 CFL Canadian College Draft. However, he was traded to Hamilton soon after.

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Playing football as a career came as a bit of a surprise to his dad, who wasn’t much of a football fan.

“He wasn’t much of a sportsman in terms of that. He was a worker. He was just a blue-collar worker,” O’Shea said with a smile. “So he had a hard time understanding my first contract and that I was gonna get paid to step on the football field and that, you know, people would pay to come watch this.”

O’Shea spoke candidly about his dad, who passed away a few years ago. He said that while his dad may not have understood the game, he was always there. His parents would drive down to nearly every match to watch him from the stands.

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“He eventually got it, understood it… and my mom, who was the one who understood the game, she would teach him in the stands,” O’Shea said. “We’ve got a lot of joy out of them coming to a lot of my games through high school and university and my first bunch of years in the pros.”

Hard work has always been an attribute instilled in O’Shea by his family, he says. The O’Sheas owned a Dairy Queen, and the coach says even today he could still make anything on the menu.

“I can still jump behind. I promise you that. I can still jump behind and make everything to weight because overages, in the food industry, overages cost you a lot of money,” he said. “So I can jump back there, do anything you need me to do. I promise you that.”

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While family is important to O’Shea, he admits he isn’t always the best at prioritizing them during the season.

“I think that’s the mistake most coaches make is really trying to figure out that balance,” he said. “Certainly, can be a lot better at that, but the job is demanding and lot of times, you get lost in the idea of thinking that more needs to be done.”

But the holidays give him some extra time to spend with family. Part of the O’Shea family tradition is going out to cut down a Christmas tree, spend time together over the holiday season and share some special meals.

While the team was able to bring the Grey Cup back to Winnipeg for the first time in 29 years, there is still one regret O’Shea has about the season.

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“At the end of every season, there’s some changeover in players, and I think you wish that certain guys would still have been here to celebrate this,” he said. “So I know there’s a handful of players that we moved on from that absolutely could’ve been a part of this, and I wish they were. They know who they are.”

With the season now completed, there was just one question left: is the beard staying?

“I had it trimmed not too long ago. You can’t tell I had it trimmed? I’m trying to keep it,” he said, laughing and looking over at his wife.

“I’m trying to groom a little more frequently in an effort to be allowed to keep it, so we’ll see if that works out. But it was -27 the other day. This came in handy.”


© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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