“It’s hard for me to imagine being in another uniform” | Gauthier returns for 7th season

Shayne Gauthier has long had an affinity to rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty.

That, in part, explains why the veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker continues to work in the offseason as an electrician’s apprentice, including his pursuit of his third level beginning next Monday.

“I’ve always liked trade work and how when you are at a project you can see the results at the end of each day,” said Gauthier in a chat with bluebombers.com after putting his name on a one-year contract extension with the club.

“There’s just something fulfilling about building something and achieving that goal before you start another one. I’ve always been someone who liked the manual labour and liked to work with my hands.”

The 30-year-old product of Dolbeau-Mistassini also got his hands dirty, so to speak, with the Blue Bombers defence in 2022 – a season in which he posted career-best numbers in an ever-increasing role in ‘The Dark Side’ unit.

A fourth-round selection, 28th overall, by the Blue Bombers in the 2016 CFL Draft, Gauthier has not missed a contest in the last three seasons and last year registered 28 tackles, while adding the first two quarterback sacks of his career.

Gauthier’s contributions emphasized the approach by Defensive Coordinator Richie Hall and his staff which sees so many players play roles in various alignments. It’s also a testament to the club’s depth, as Gauthier has taken reps at both the weak side and middle linebacker spots.

“Last year was the first time I really spent extended time with the defence,” he said. “It was so rewarding. It proved to myself that I could do it at the highest level if I had the opportunity. I was happy with how I played but know I could have done better. I’m the hardest critic of my own play but if I look overall at the situations of when I was put in, I think I did pretty well.

“A big part of our success defensively is how so many players are involved. When I started with Winnipeg in ’16 that wasn’t the case as much as it is now. And it seems that as we started to do more of that our defence became better and better as the years went along.

“Once it was proven that it could have a positive impact on our defence, they tried to do it with more people. It means more people are focused.

“We had a bunch of injuries last year on defence and we had some rookies who jumped in and made an impact right away,” he added. “It just proved that if everyone puts in the work we are asked to do, it will show up whenever somebody new gets on the field because he knows what he’s doing and he’s ready to have success.”

Gauthier was scheduled to become a free agent next month. But while he arrived in Winnipeg barely able to speak English – Dobleau-Mistassini is situated 340 kilometres north of Quebec City – he has found a home here, as we outlined in a piece last year when he re-signed with the club.

Gauthier lives and works in Winnipeg year-round and is happy to call the city home. That comfort level, and his growth since he first arrived seven years ago, was mammoth in his decision to re-sign.

“After the year I sat down and thought about all these years and how I have become a different man since I got here,” he said. “I’ve grown up a lot over these years.

“Thinking about going somewhere else… that’s pretty hard for me. I just can’t picture it in my head because of what we’ve built here since ’16 and we started winning. I’ve seen this team grow a lot and with what we’ve done I want to keep doing it.

“It’s hard for me to imagine being in another uniform. And a lot of people who are close to me and follow me can’t see me being anywhere else, either.”

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