Manitoba

Winnipeg-born running back hopes pro football dream will come true at NFL draft

Brady Oliveira says the game of football has taken him to some "crazy places" — this weekend he's hoping it will take him to the National Football League.

After starring at Oak Park, Brady Oliveira played 4 seasons at University of North Dakota

Winnipeg's Brady Oliveira rushed for 2,822 yards in four seasons at the University of North Dakota. (Russell Hons/Supplied)

Brady Oliveira says the game of football has taken him to some "crazy places" — this weekend he's hoping it will take him to the National Football League.

The 21-year-old Winnipegger is one of hundreds of prospects hoping to hear their names called at the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tenn. After a stellar college career at the University of North Dakota, the 5-foot-10, 225-pound running back is confident he has what it takes play pro football.

"I definitely know what I'm capable of. I know my abilities, my talents, everything that God has blessed me with."

Over four seasons at UND, Oliveira rushed for 2,822 yards, the seventh-highest total in school history. He scored 22 touchdowns and twice earned all-conference honours.

"There's nothing like the running back position," he told Ismaila Alfa, host of CBC Radio's afternoon show Up To Speed. "Once I touch that ball, I have 11 guys that are trying to get me down."

Minnesota Vikings fan

Leading up to the draft, Oliveira said he's been contacted by a number of NFL teams, including the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Although he'd be happy to play anywhere, he said it would be a dream come true to play for his childhood team.

"I grew up a Vikings fan and I would love to play with them. I think I would be a good fit for their football team."

The annual draft began on Thursday, with University of Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray chosen first overall by the Arizona Cardinals. The second and third rounds were held on Friday, with the remaining rounds 4-7 slated for Saturday.

Oliveira said it's been stressful playing the waiting game, as his fate rests in the hands of 32 NFL general managers. But even if his name isn't called as the draft winds down on Saturday, he expects to hear from teams interested in signing him as an undrafted free agent.

"I've been chasing this dream my entire life and all I need is one opportunity, one chance to show myself."

After a stellar career at UND, Oliveira is hoping he'll be chosen this weekend in the 2019 NFL Draft. (Russell Hons/Supplied)

Oliveira says he's always dreamed of becoming a professional athlete, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a champion kickboxer and played semi-pro soccer in Brazil and Mexico. But he didn't consider playing football until he was 13, when a coach convinced the young soccer player to try his luck on the gridiron.

"That first practice, I just fell in love with the game of football," he said.

It didn't take long for Oliveira to make his mark on the field. After starring with the North Winnipeg Nomads, he dominated the Winnipeg High School Football League, breaking Division 1 records for rushing yards and touchdowns in his senior season, and catching the eye of college coaches.

Oliveira says he'll always be grateful to the sport for providing him with the opportunity to get an education. When he graduated from UND in December, he became the first generation of his family to earn a university degree.

"Whatever happens with football, I still have that college degree," he said. "It means a lot to me, but also my family."

Even if he's able to live the dream of playing professional football, Oliveira said he still intends to put his degree to use some day. With a major in criminal justice and a minor in sociology, he thinks he might be able to use his education and leadership skills to help at-risk youth.

"If I can change a few lives along the way, then that'll make me feel really good."

In the meantime, though, Oliveira will be sitting with his family in Winnipeg on Saturday, waiting for the phone to ring, to find out what the next stop on his journey will be.

"The game of football has brought me to crazy places, a lot of opportunities I never thought I would ever achieve in my life. It's brought me so much joy … it's been amazing."

With files from Cory Funk and Ismaila Alfa

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