Despite early critics, former UND running back Brady Oliveira enjoying starring role with Blue Bombers
Oliveira, in his first season as the starting running back in the Canadian Football League, ranks second in the CFL in rushing yards.
GRAND FORKS — Former UND running back Brady Oliveira, now the starting running back for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL, heard the critics.
He wasn't actively searching for their input. But as an active social media user, he couldn't avoid it.
"I think the day and age we live in with social media, it's in your face 24/7," said Oliveira, who visited UND's practice Wednesday during his CFL bye week. "Critics didn't think I was getting the job done. Playing for the Bombers means more for me than most people. That's my hometown. I'm a true Winnipeger.
"It was upsetting to see people from Winnipeg doubt me, but I had great support in that locker room. The coaches believed in me, the offensive line believed in me. People forget, I just turned 25 and it takes time. You're not going to rush for 100 yards every week. It takes time to get to that level. Now you're seeing the confidence and chemistry building every week."
Oliveira stepped into the Winnipeg starting role for the first time this season after the departure of CFL legend Andrew Harris.
In his first game this season, Oliveira had 10 carries for 17 yards against Ottawa.
But the yards started to come quickly. Now, Oliveira is the CFL's second-leading rusher. He has 161 carries for 757 yards (4.7 yards per carry) with three touchdowns.
Oliveira is only 16 yards behind the CFL rushing leader Ka'Deem Carey of Calgary.
"It's a blessing," Oliveira said. "I've been through a lot. Breaking my ankle my first year, then having to wait my turn behind a future hall of famer. Those are big shoes to fill, but I was very patient and now my turn is here.
"I set a goal this year to not look at the numbers. I'll hear it from people, or I'll see it scrolling Twitter. But my main goal was to stay healthy, help my team win games, and if I play 18 games, everything will work out the way it's supposed to work out."
The Blue Bombers, Grey Cup champions in 2019 and 2021, are 12-2.
Oliveira, a second-round CFL Draft choice, finished his career at UND as the program's seventh all-time leading rusher with 2,822 yards.
He earned all-Big Sky Conference honors in 2016 and 2017, then played in 2018 when UND was independent and unable to college league honors.
Oliveira said every year he hopes UND's schedule aligns for him to take in a game in Grand Forks during his bye week. With UND on the road this week at Southern Illiinois, Oliveira and Winnipeg teammate Rasheed Bailey attended the Fighting Hawks' practice Wednesday morning.