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About Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg Blue Bombers are a professional Canadian football team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It competes in the Canadian Football League as a member club of the league's West division. It is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers Headquarter Location

315 Chancellor Matheson Road

Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T1Z2,

Canada

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‘It’s now or never’: fate brings 30-year-old rookie to Bombers from Down Under

May 12, 2022

Author of the article: Punter Tom Hackett takes part in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' rookie camp on May 11, 2022. The Melbourne native was a two-time winner of the Ray Guy Award as the best punter in U.S. college football (University of Utah). Photo by KEVIN KING /Winnipeg Sun Article content There are players who have taken a circuitous route to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ rookie camp this week, and then there’s punter Tom Hackett, who began his journey in Australia. Advertisement 2 Article content Try refreshing your browser, or 'It's now or never': fate brings 30-year-old rookie to Bombers from Down Under Back to video “I was watching the news in December of 2011,” Hackett was saying on Wednesday. “And I saw a professional Australian rules football player on the television thinking about going to play in the NFL. And I thought, man, that’s pretty cool.” Five years later, the Melbourne native was a two-time winner of the Ray Guy Award as the best punter in U.S. college football (University of Utah). Article content But when he failed to crack the NFL, he hung up his cleats for nearly six years. Well into starting a family and a career as a sports reporter, Hackett had his name called by the Blue Bombers in the CFL’s Global Draft a week ago, making him the most unlikely 30-year-old rookie you’ll find. “I don’t really know why I got back into it,” Hackett said. “It was just kind of fate. But we’re here. And my wife and two-year-old are in Salt Lake. So figure it out, Tom.” Advertisement 3 Article content Two things make Hackett’s story so intriguing: how he got here, and how he kicks the ball. As a 19-year-old in Melbourne, Hackett saw that TV broadcast and immediately wanted to sign up for an American football academy Down Under. When he asked his dad for the $3,500, his dad insisted he come along for the tryout. “I went down, shanked every one,” Hackett recalled. “And (dad) goes, ‘He’s not good enough, surely.’ And (the coach) goes ‘No, no, no he’s good enough.’ Dad paid him in the end. I think I still owe him half of that.” After a sparkling career at Utah, it appeared only a matter of time before he’d be repaying his father in full, and then some. Hackett became an Aussie-style kicking force in college, averaging between 46 and 47 yards a punt his last two seasons, using a half roll-out at times and often bouncing the ball maddeningly out of reach of scrambling returners. Advertisement 4 Article content A member of the Pac-12 all-century team, he was also a quote machine. After winning his first Ray Guy Award: “It’s not that big of a deal. I’m essentially kicking pigskin. We eat bacon. So I’m kicking bacon down a field for people’s entertainment.” Another Hackett gem from back then: “The main reason I’m playing this sport right now is because deep down I’m fat and I don’t like running around very much.” Beneath the laid-back exterior, Hackett wanted to make the NFL so badly, it began to eat him up. Signing with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent didn’t pan out, and after a couple more looks, he’d had enough. “Mentally, I was ruined a bit,” Hackett said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I was just happy to go get a day job.” Advertisement 5 Article content An internship at a Salt Lake City radio station turned into a full-time gig co-hosting a sports show, which lasted a year. For the better part of the last five years he’s worked for KSL Sports, doing mostly online reporting on the city’s Major League Soccer team. “I loved it,” Hackett said. “I had a golf show that aired every week, on Sunday nights. It’s a fun job.” It seemed kicking was out of his system. That all changed a couple months ago, when Hackett got a call from friend and Utah kick returner Britain Covey. Eligible for the NFL Draft, Covey asked Hackett to punt for him at his pro day. “I hadn’t punted in about five years,” Hackett said. “So I said, ‘You’re kidding.’ And then I went down and there were 29 NFL teams and I had a really good day, I surprised myself. So I thought, man, maybe I can think about getting back into this again.” Advertisement 6 Article content “So I said, sure, throw my name in the hat.” Eventually Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea called to welcome him to Winnipeg. “Had to tell the Mrs. and she didn’t really know what to think,” Hackett said. “And neither did I.” He didn’t know how his boss would react, so he didn’t tell him. “I was scared, actually. He called me because they found out on Twitter. I’m like ‘Ah, sh–. So, are you guys firing me?’” They didn’t. Instead, they told him to go for it. Hackett says he doesn’t feel as much pressure as he did six years ago. But he isn’t sure he’d ever have peace of mind if he didn’t give this one, last try. “I don’t want to be 60 or 70 and think ‘Sh–, I wonder what would’ve happened if I tried taking the opportunity.’” Advertisement 7 Article content So he packed up and left Salt Lake, missing most of a birthday visit – he turned 30 on Tuesday – from his parents, all the way from Australia. Arriving in a strange, flat land on the outskirts of a city he knows virtually nothing about, Hackett looks at the wide CFL field and sees all kinds of possibilities. O’Shea is intrigued, too. Hackett’s long layoff doesn’t even faze him. The coach figures hockey players never forget how to shoot, and Aussie kickers never forget how to kick. “It’s riding a bike at the end of the day,” Hackett agreed. “But it does take a bit of time to blow the dust off and try to get back to where you once were. Until the hamstring falls off the bone, we’re going to give it everything we’ve got. “I can’t do this in 10 years. It’s now or never.” pfriesen@postmedia.com Share this article in your social network Share this Story: 'It's now or never': fate brings 30-year-old rookie to Bombers from Down Under

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