They have spent the last 10 days of training camp, three days of rookie camp, and three days of mini-camp for the opportunity to showcase their talents to the world.
Each is auditioning to be one of 46 lucky players selected for a spot on the roster of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The players' strengths and weaknesses have been put to the test through a variety of drills and simulated play, and Thursday, training camp culminates when the team travels to Montreal to take on the Alouettes in their first pre-season game of 2011.
One of Winnipeg's main issues over the past few years has been its dire need for a quality starting quarterback. The team had Buck Pierce for the start of last season, but due to several injuries, all four quarterbacks ended up seeing playing time.
This off-season, Pierce spent his time in Winnipeg, rehabbing and building for 2011. He has come out looking sharper and stronger than he has ever before. A man on a mission who is looking to prove his doubters wrong, Pierce will enter 2011 with the mindset to play all 18 games, enter the post-season and ultimately earn the city a Grey Cup.
This season, Pierce and company will have a throng of top-quality receivers to throw the ball to, such as veterans Terrence Edwards and Cory Watson, and returning players Greg Carr and Terrence-Jeffers Harris.
To help bolster their receiving core, the Bombers selected Jade Etienne fourth overall in the 2011 CFL Draft and selected Kito Poblah first in the supplemental draft. These two players are expected to bring depth to the lineup right away.
On the running game, rushing title winner Fred Reid returns for his fifth season and looks to maintain his game, while newcomers Chris Garrett and Alex Henderson flank behind, hoping for a shot at his job.
Defensively, the Bombers could do no wrong. With 27 sacks combined from two players last season, the team is looking to bring back their power from 2009.
Losing Phillip Hunt to the NFL does leave a gaping hole in the defense; however, with the emergence of Odell Willis and help from the rest of the players, their performance should not falter. The team has a young core ready to contribute.
In fact, a number of names stand out on defense: Clinton Kent, Ian Logan, Pierre-Luc Labbe, and Doug Brown, plus new faces Rico McCoy, Johnny Sears, and Leslie Majors. This team is ready to compete.
With Jonathan Hefney and Jovon Johnson working together for a full season, quarterbacks will think twice about going deep. Meanwhile, Deon Beasley and Alex Suber look to continue to hold down the secondary.
In this year’s draft, the team selected Henoc Muamba first overall, with the thought that he could contribute immediately to special teams, which can and most likely will happen.
But even further, Muamba has such a unique skill set that he could be used in all sorts of scenarios, all of which will help the Bombers.
All in all, the team has spent the past off-season rebuilding and retooling for the 2011 season. Although the team ended last season with a 4-14 record, they have so much more going for them this season. And with a new stadium coming next year, look for the Blue Bombers to close out this stadium's chapter on a high note.