First & 10 : Jake Thomas the Realtor

The e-mail was one of the dozens to arrive in my inbox Thursday afternoon – a message from LinkedIn to ‘Congratulate Jacob Thomas and 2 others for starting new positions.’

The first of my two instant reactions was the temptation to quickly hit the delete button. It’s not that I’m being rude, I don’t think, it’s just that clicking on a ‘Congrats on the new role!’ message and then hitting ‘send’ seems more robotic than personal – although I supposed it’s better than trashing the thing altogether.

My second reaction was this: who the hell is Jacob Thomas?

Opening the e-mail and enlarging the mugshot, it all became clearer – Jacob Thomas is, in fact, Jake Thomas of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and, just FYI, he has just started a new gig in real estate with The Drisdelle Team at Keller Williams Capital Reality in Fredericton, N.B.

And there was a photo of Jake in the profile, looking all spiffy in a sport coat and dress shirt…

“And check it out… how do you like that Winnipeg ‘W’ button right there on the jacket?” began Thomas in a conversation with bluebombers.com. “I had to get the ‘W’ brand in there.

“I started officially at the end of last week, but it got announced on Tuesday of this week. I wrote the exam two years ago, right before last year’s season, and the plan was for me to join the team in January. It’s just that COVID has expedited the process a few months.”

COVID has expedited a lot of processes in 2020, not the least of which was the unfortunate cancellation of the Canadian Football League season after the federal government balked at helping fund the hub city concept.

Even before that, the pandemic had a lot of players both re-evaluating their financial situations and examining other potential sources of income. Thomas, a business grad from Acadia University, has been in that mode for years.

“One of the great things about playing in the CFL is it’s given me the chance in the past to job shadow and look at other careers for after football,” said Thomas. “I dabbled at one point in mutual funds and realized that wasn’t for me. I have a few close friends that are in the real estate industry and I would tag along with them every now and then to see what they were doing and it always intrigued me.

“I was trying to find something in terms of a job here in Fredericton and real estate was one that kept popping up and checking a lot of boxes for me. Working with the team I am working with, if football comes back in 2021 it still leaves me that option.”

During our conversations yours truly asked Thomas if he had invested yet in bus bench advertising or if his mug was plastered all over billboards in the New Brunswick capital, a là this scene from the movie ‘I Love You, Man’ (language warning).

“I haven’t done that yet,” laughed Thomas. “We’re just starting. My business cards come in, I think, next week and we’ll have a couple more photo shoots for  digital website stuff.

“No billboards yet, but hopefully some ‘For Sale’ signs in the near future.”

Follow up question: what about some sort of catchy tag line/slogan?

“I have one, I just have to see if I’m allowed it,” Thomas explained. “It’s ‘Jake Thomas – I’m Here to Tackle All Your Real Estate Needs.’”

Bravo. Well played, sir.

“I’m not sure about how corporate branding works,” Thomas added. “Maybe I’ll have to use ‘I’ll Sack Your Real Estate Needs.’ Hopefully no one would look up my career sack totals, where it’s anywhere from four or five a year.”

More from Jake, errr, Jacob Thomas in this week’s collection of notes and quotes we call First & 10…

1. I’m not in the market, particularly not the market in Fredericton, but I’ll tell you this: I’d buy a house from Jake Thomas.

Thomas was the Bombers’ final pick in the 2012 CFL Draft, selected in the fourth round, 29th overall, after Tyson Pencer, Giovanni Aprile, Christo Bilukidi and Rene Stephan. Currently the longest-serving Bomber, Thomas has appeared in 137 regular season games and in 2019, posted career-best numbers in sacks (5) and tackles (22).

Over his football career he’s endeared himself to coaches and teammates with his hard hat and lunch pail approach. There’s a reason head coach Mike O’Shea selected Thomas to be the first player to hold the Grey Cup in the trophy presentation last November beyond him being the longest-serving Bomber.

All of that should serve him well in real estate.

“Growing up I always wanted to own my own business,” said Thomas. “I have a lot of family members in the area where I live who have owned businesses so I’ve always been around that. Financially, this seems like the perfect fit because I think I can turn this into a business and I like the idea of being paid per performance. I guess that’s the athlete in me. I don’t think I would do well showing up for a 9-to-5 job… nothing against that lifestyle, but I like the idea that if you put in a lot of work you can be very successful.”

2. One more from Thomas… as is tradition in a lot of sports, CFL players often get a day with the Grey Cup. It’s a chance to gather together family to take photos and to celebrate the individual accomplishment within the team sport.

Thomas, like so many others, had his turn cancelled by the Coronavirus.

“I was supposed to be part of an Eastern Tour… myself, Mike Miller, Jesse Briggs and Shayne Gauthier were all lined up in the last week before the massive COVID lockdown in March,” he said.

“I’m hoping now with the extra year the Cup can still make its way out east.”

3. Just passing this along, because these kinds of things never gets old – Lucky Whitehead now has his 2019 Grey Cup in his possession.

4. Week after week I keep repeating myself, but the cancellation of the CFL season has many of us nostalgic, worried about the future and praying we can get back to weeks like this – what should have been the days in between the Labour Day Classic in Regina and the Banjo Bowl here in Winnipeg.

Outside of Grey Cup, it’s two games that showcase the CFL at its best – two rabid fan bases trading barbs, two Prairie rivals and two iconic games.

Check out this week’s ‘Waggle’ podcast as host Donnovan Bennet welcomes in three play-by-play voices, including the legendary Bob Irving of CJOB. Knuckles joins Donnovan right off the top, at the 3:31 mark.

5. An idea Donnovan floats during his conversation with Knuckles is one that’s been done before but should be dusted off and brought back for 2021 and beyond, in my humble opinion: tying in a USports game as part of the Labour Day Classic/Banjo Bowl weekends.

There was a time when the University of Manitoba Bisons would play the University of Regina Rams the night before the Labour Day Classic, but that idea has been shelved for a few years now.

If the CFL wants to help grow the game, some sort of fan package that incorporates a Bisons vs Rams game on the Labour Day weekend and a Bisons vs University of Saskatchewan game prior to the Banjo Bowl would be phenomenal.

Ditto a McMaster vs University of Toronto showdown wrapped around the Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs Toronto Argonauts Labour Day Classic and a University of Alberta vs Calgary Dinos game on the same weekend as the Stampeders and Edmonton football team (formerly the Eskimos) do their Battle of Alberta thing.

Nobody asked me, but the fact that isn’t a given on the USports schedule is incomprehensible.

6. Another mini-rant, while we’re up on the soapbox…

In the CFL’s makeover this winter can they not build a Montreal Alouettes vs Ottawa RedBlacks game into the Labour Day weekend? It’s a natural rivalry, and the idea of fans driving back and forth between the two cities – or on some sort of Labour Day train – has to be built upon further.

And, in a perfect world, the Atlantic Schooners come to life in the next few years to get a coast-to-coast Labour Day weekend rivalry game with the B.C. Lions.

7. We’ve been raving about Drew Wolitarsky’s personality and his musical gifts in this space for a long time, so much so that after one piece we did, someone barked ‘What, are you his agent or something?’

Wolitarsky is now doing curb-side concerts (book him by emailing dwally123@yahoo.com) and recently did another interview on his music with Ted Wyman of The Sun.

8. One more plug with this week’s good read, from Paul Friesen on Bombers centre Michael Couture:

9. It was with a great deal of excitement – and a hint of resentment, admittedly – that I plunked down on the couch Thursday night to watch the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans in the 2020 NFL opener.

Excitement because, heck, it’s football. And resentment because it still stings that the CFL couldn’t make their season work.

It was also curious to see the Chiefs playing in front of 22 percent capacity at Arrowhead Stadium, or 22,000 fans.

Two interesting reads on that concept and the fan experience:

The Kansas City Star

The New York Times

10. And finally, our weekly collection of notes wouldn’t be complete with some sort of reference to Chris Streveler – the former Bombers quarterback now working with two other former Bombers quarterbacks in Arizona with head coach Kliff Kingsbury and pass game coordinator/QB coach Tom Clements.

Streveler was on the front page of the sports section in Phoenix this week and will dress for Sunday’s opener in San Francisco against the 49ers.

Streveler will be working behind Kyler Murray, a smallish NFL starter who some say is generously listed at 5-10, and could eventually be used in some packages the same way the New Orleans Saints use Taysom Hill.

Hill has started nine games in the last two years when Drew Brees was injured and has rushed the ball 64 times in his career and caught 22 passes.

As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, nothing will stop me from rooting for those guys, but Streveler has already made me pay a lot more attention to the Cardinals.

Go get ‘em, Chris.

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