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Blue Bombers legend Streveler happy to be back in Winnipeg after three seasons in NFL

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WINNIPEG — Chris Streveler won’t be flying to football games in a luxury private plane this season, but he’s fine with that.

The backup quarterback is grateful for the glitz and growth he experienced playing in the NFL, but also really pumped to return to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Streveler had a smile on his face at training camp this week as he talked about his football journey and being back on the team he won the 2019 Grey Cup with in his second CFL season.

The gritty dual-threat quarterback from Crystal Lake, Ill., became a local legend during the victory parade when he wore a fur coat over his bare chest, sported a white cowboy hat and chugged beer along the route as fans celebrated the end of a 28-season championship drought.

When Streveler went on a quest to crack the NFL, fans rooted for their adopted son on social media.

“One thing about Winnipeg that’s just amazing is that if anyone comes to Winnipeg and then leaves, the people in Winnipeg support that,” Streveler, 29, said.

“They love to see their own going out and promoting Winnipeg and doing well, so they cheer you on.”

At an autograph session in March, Bomber fans lined up to welcome him back, some even donning fur coats.

Starting quarterback Zach Collaros laughs when asked about having such a popular backup.

"It’s great for me, it’s less attention," he said. "Chris is a great guy. It’s easy to see why people are drawn to him.

"Not just his performance during the playoff run and the Grey Cup and the parade after with the fur coat and all that stuff, but he’s a magnetic personality. People love to be around him and I think that’s great for our team, it’s great for our room. He’s a great guy to work with and to learn from.”

Streveler said his experiences in the NFL changed his life "in every way" — professionally, personally and financially.

He was signed by the Arizona Cardinals in 2020 and played in seven regular-season games over two years. He also met his current girlfriend.

After stops with the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, he got into two regular-season games with the New York Jets in 2022. He also qualified for an NFL pension for life and other benefits such as insurance.

A thumb injury on his throwing hand last August led the Jets to waive him with an injury settlement.

When nothing came after he worked out for the Chicago Bears in early January, he set his sights back to the CFL.

Winnipeg was his top choice.

"Getting to be around some of the best players in the world and have those experiences with them and learn the game through their eyes is going to change how you see the game as a quarterback," Streveler said.

"Also, in five years I’ve matured a lot, learned to have in-depth football conversations with people, be an active contributor to a quarterback room. Not that I didn’t before, but in over five years of playing the game you develop and you learn."

He’s thankful for his NFL memories.

"The plane we had in Arizona was unbelievable," Streveler said. "It was a double-decker. The coaches would sit upstairs. We had a full menu of food, the chairs would recline all the way and the first class was like everyone had their own little compartment.

"So that was where I was like, 'OK, this is really cool.'"

Some facilities were top-notch and practices utilized technology. Sessions were recorded and backups like himself could go on the field afterward and put on virtual-reality goggles and go through reads.

"But I don’t mind being here," he said after practice at the renamed Princess Auto Stadium. "These facilities, we have everything we need to be successful and that’s all it comes down to.

"You don’t need to be the most flashy and the glamorous and the nicest. As long as all these players have everything they need to be successful, which we do, that’s all you need."

He wants to assure fans he’s focused on the here and now and not getting back to the NFL.

"I honestly could not be happier to be here," Streveler said.

"There's no feelings inside me that I think about wanting to be there, think about wanting to go back. I’m 100 per cent focused on being here and trying to win games with this football team.

"I couldn’t be happier to be in the locker room with these guys. There’s just so many good people here."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2024.