The last few months have been difficult for Canadian Football League players, what with having to deal about the uncertainty of a 2020 season due to a global pandemic.
Couple that with what is unfolding in the United States, Canada and all over the world with the Black Lives Matter movement, and this calendar year has been so challenging for everyone.
Some CFLers have dealt with the anxiety and stress by cranking up their workouts, by diving into books, binge-watching Netflix shows, taking more courses toward a university degree or finding work in another field.
And Geoff Gray of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?
Well, he’s been taking his interest in computational thermal dynamics and applying it more specifically to his thesis on an air-lift pump focused for fish farming.
“The air-lift pump is useful for fish farming because it won’t just pump water, it will oxygenate it,” Gray began. “It’s basically a tube that you stick into water and then you blow air into the bottom. Now, because air is lighter than water the air rises through the tube of water, which pulls water with it when that density difference and the drag pumps some water.
“They’re used in a lot of different things and it’s a very simple and cheap design to implement, but it’s complex physics. Up until recently there have been efforts to study them, but it’s just cheaper to build a new one than to get to the bottom of why it’s not working.
“There’s been lots of work on it but my goal is, through the computer simulation, to get a better understanding of what’s going on and that will hopefully allow us to tweak the existing analytical models.”
As part of his undergrad work, Gray worked on studying a cooling system for batteries for electric busses as well as alternative uses for geo-thermal heated pads to try and “see if you can reject excess heat from a geo-thermally conditioned building through a hydronic concrete pad.
“Basically, what I do is a numerical simulation. It’s basically an experiment in a computer. Setting that up and studying fluid flow and the energy transfer in that fluid flow.”
Don’t worry here, because if your eyes glossed over and you zoned out while reading those last few paragraphs, welcome to the club.
But, all of this is just part of what makes Gray one of the more fascinating men in the Blue Bombers’ clubhouse. When he isn’t pursuing his Masters, he’s throwing around defensive lineman as a guard who made 12 starts for the team last year. He’s a former competitive power-lifter, a Grade-A cook according to his teammates on the offensive line, and a guy who concluded his pro-day workout in front of NFL scouts a few years ago by peeling off his helmet and shoulder pads and twirling around the turf on a unicycle.
The 25-year-old Winnipegger needs one more class to complete the course portion towards his Masters and then finish his thesis. He branched off to the study of air-lift pump in aqua-culture when a company approached his advisor at the University of Manitoba to do some industrial research.
Ultimately, this is the field Gray hopes to be working in as a lifelong career, ideally as a consultant/industrial researcher in an academic setting. But as much the pursuit of his Masters of Science is a passion so, too, is playing football.
A first-round draft pick of the Bombers in 2017, Grey joined the club in October of 2018 after stints in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns.
Last season was a bust-out season for Gray, who dressed for 13 games and made the dozen starts, but was also on the sidelines on Grey Cup Sunday.
“To be honest, I haven’t sat back and reflected on the personal aspect of last season,” said Gray. “That gets lost with finishing with the Grey Cup. That’s what the emphasis is on. You don’t want to finish the year not playing, but that’s not what I’m focused on.
“I’ve gained a ton of experience. Everything considered, I think last year went well and I’m in a position where I’ll come in – with whatever happens this year – better off than when I started last year. Even with not playing at the end of the season I still think I was better at the end of the year than at the start. That’s what you’re looking for at the end of the day.
“Most importantly, that’s the first championship I’ve ever won and I’m still lost in the moment of that.”
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