Manitoba

Bombers, Ticats arrive at Grey Cup with far more than football on their resumes

CFL players have long looked to a second job to help pay the bills and plan for life beyond football. But the pandemic-cancelled 2020 season accelerated such plans for many.

Adam Bighill, Willie Jefferson among Winnipeg players working when not on the gridiron

Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill is an investment adviser with Wellington-Altus Private Wealth when he is not on the football field. (Winnipeg Blue Bombers/Twitter)

Need a car? Hamilton offensive lineman Brandon Revenberg has connections.

Financial advice? Try Winnipeg linebacker Adam Bighill.

Blue Bombers defensive lineman Willie Jefferson has his commercial driver's licence and can drive — and park — a garbage truck. Ticats defensive lineman Julian Howsare is a certified personal trainer. Bombers defensive back Winston Rose has a Caribbean import business.

CFL players have long looked to a second job to help pay the bills and plan for life beyond football. But the pandemic-cancelled 2020 season accelerated such plans for many.

Revenberg used the time off to work at his family's auto dealership in Windsor, Ont.

"It was nice to get a little taste of life after football but I definitely missed playing, I'll tell you that much," he said.

His father and uncle have Chevy, Nissan, Volkswagen and Kia dealerships. Revenberg, who grew up washing cars on the lot and serving as a 'gofer' before working in the service bay, sold cars at Nissan of Windsor, part of the Revenberg Automotive Family.

At six foot four and 305 pounds, Revenberg must have cut an imposing figure in the showroom. A gentle giant, he says working in sales was good experience in that it forced him out of his shell.

For the record, the big man drives a GMC Terrain SUV, which his family sells.

"I'd think I'd be disowned [if we didn't have a three-quarter-ton]," he said with a laugh.

Hamilton offensive lineman Chris Van Zeyl has his real estate license but, with a second child on the way with the league on hiatus, decided to go a different direction so his hours would be more regular.

Ticats LB 'loved' doing electrical work

John Yancoulis, a friend, offered him a chance to work at his Hamilton-based company JLY Electric. What started as a two-week tryout turned into a six-month apprenticeship with Van Zeyl working under a master electrician on everything from residential to commercial and industrial projects.

"I absolutely loved it," he said. "I loved working with my hands. It was pretty incredible to see what you've done at the end of the day.

"It's definitely something I will do down the road."

Ticats assistant coach Craig Butler, in charge of defensive backs, is also good with his hands. He renovated his basement.

Bombers special-teams ace Mike Miller spent his down time doing a lot of manual labour with construction projects, house demolitions and work involving house foundations.

"There was definitely some stuff I'd never learned before, which was great and I enjoyed it," Miller said. "I don't know if that's something I want to do when I'm done playing football but if something happens to my house down the road at least I 'll know how to fix it."

Hamilton rookie defensive back Stavros Katsantonis got his real estate licence last December.

"Definitely just something I wanted to kind of put in my tool box outside of football, because they say real estate is a big networking thing and the more people you know, the easier it becomes," said Katsantonis, who makes his off-season home in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. "[I'm] just trying different things outside of football."

Howsare earned his personal training certification and started training people back home.

"That's something I want to get into post-career anyway so I figured I'd get a jump start on it," said the product of Altoona, Penn. "It kept me busy."

He started training weekend warriors but hopes down the line to help athletes with strength, conditioning and perhaps nutrition. A physical specimen himself at six foot three and 255 pounds, Howsare admits the occasional slice of pizza passes his lips.

"You have to treat yourself sometimes," he said with a laugh. "Once in a while. You've just got to limit it."

When not punishing opposing ball-carriers, Bighill has long studied the financial markets. In 2020, he worked his other job — as an investment adviser with Wellington-Altus Private Wealth, an independent brokerage in Canada.

He continues to do so and says his two jobs sometimes combine, sharing his financial expertise with teammates as needed.

"People ask me 'How do I save? How do I budget? What do I do?' I always give information, as much as I can for my teammates for free and help them find something that works for them," he said. "For me, it's fun being able to help those guys out."

On his way to Grey Cup Media Day on Thursday, Bighill was on his phone studying the markets.

"It's something that I always have to do. I start my morning with several different news sources and reading. So it's something I'm still doing while here. It doesn't sleep. You have to stay on top of it."

The 33-year-old Bighill says his investment work also helps by taking him away from football..

"To me, as I've gotten older in this league, it's just too much — it's just too much mentally to always be dialled into football," he said. "You learn as you go how much you really need to go in. I would say I still go in more than most or all with football effort, but I know when I can shut it off and move to something else, if that makes sense."

Jefferson hit the books online, finishing his degree in multimedia studies. He also started driving garbage trucks with his father-in-law in Austin, Texas.

"Just something I could do outside football that's not too strenuous but still brings in some type of income," said Jefferson, a six-foot-seven 252-pounder who exudes cool.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive lineman Willie Jefferson likes the challenge of driving a big garbage truck. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Jefferson, who drives a Ram 1500 pickup truck for personal use, likes the challenge of driving a big garbage truck.

"One, you're not just worried about yourself, you're worrying about other people because you're such a big vehicle," he explained.

Rose started two business. A California native whose parents are Jamaican, the Bombers defensive back started selling and delivering Caribbean food in the Los Angeles area and San Fernando Valley.

He and business partner Andrew Scott also started Winscott Imports, which deals in Caribbean products from specialty beverages to jerk seasoning and hot sauces.

"In the near future, we're going cross-border, coming to Canada," he said.

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