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Tait: Matt Nichols shines in Blue Bombers spotlight

This Bombers team, in many ways, has adopted the personality of its quarterback.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Matt Nichols (15) throws a pass during the first half of CFL football action in Winnipeg, Saturday, September 9, 2017.

Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Matt Nichols (15) throws a pass during the first half of CFL football action in Winnipeg, Saturday, September 9, 2017.

Let’s begin this week’s ramblings by firing out a few names, some which may be familiar to Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans…

Brian Brohm. Robert Marve. Max Hall. Justin Goltz. Drew Willy. Buck Pierce. Steven Jyles. Alex Brink. Joey Elliott. Ryan Dinwiddie. Michael Bishop. Stefan LeFors.

We bring up this collection of quarterbacks in an effort to shine a light on the man currently at the centre of the Bombers huddle – Matt Nichols.

It’s been awhile, you see, since a Bombers quarterback was among the Canadian Football League passing leaders and considered one the candidates for the Most Outstanding Player Award.

Yes, for the record the last Bombers QB to lead the loop in passing was Kevin Glenn, way back in 2007. And that bunch of names listed above have all made starts for the club in between Glenn and the man now in charge.

And, save for Pierce – who was forever battling injuries but did lead the Bombers to an appearance in the 2011 Grey Cup – there’s a whole pile of interceptions, incompletions and heartache associated with the rest of that crew.

All of which brings us, again, to Nichols.

Acquired in September of 2015 from the Edmonton Eskimos for a case of Gatorade and a rusted-out Chevy Impala – actually, a late-round draft pick – Nichols usurped Willy as the starter last summer and has been front and centre in the Bombers remarkable turnaround.

The Bombers are 19-6 since that QB switch and if aliens were to appear in the club’s locker room and declare ‘Take us to your leader’, every finger in the joint would be pointed at Nichols.

Nichols is currently fifth in the CFL in passing yardage, trailing Edmonton’s Mike Reilly, Ricky Ray of Toronto, Trevor Harris of Ottawa and Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell – all but Reilly are on teams that have played more games than Winnipeg. Nichols also leads the CFL in passing touchdowns with 24 and has the top QB rating in the land.

But leadership is about more than just the numbers on the stats sheet.

This Bombers team, in many ways, has adopted the personality of Nichols. They have a collective chip on their shoulders and play with a ‘this-could-be-our-last-snap’ mentality.

There’s a fire in his belly and a maturity to his daily approach to his craft and to his team. And it’s been infectious.

Now comes the next step, the most-important of all.

Great quarterbacks, just like great teams, are always defined in this league by what they do in November. It’s why Ken Ploen is an icon in this town. It’s why Tom Burgess is fondly remembered, despite so-so numbers, for being the man at the controls of the last Bombers Grey-Cup title, way back in 1990.

Granted, there’s a lot of miles to cover between now and November. But with a 9-3 record and having won seven of their last eight after last Friday’s rain-soaked win over the Ottawa RedBlacks, Nichols & Co. have the Bombers engine revving and ready for a late-season push.

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Ed Tait is the Blue Bombers Director of Content. His columns appear weekly in the Metro. Follow him daily at bluebombers.com.

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