Really needs to play

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

CFL players spend their game cheques in a variety of ways.

Some put it in a vacation fund for the end of the season, others put new rims on their vehicles, and some just go shopping for the heck of it.

They're not millionaires, but they're getting by nicely.

Patrick Thibeault wants just one game cheque. That way, he knows for sure that he'll be able to feed his family.

And the Winnipeg Blue Bombers receiver might get that cheque this week. If Gilles Colon can't play because of a nagging quadriceps injury, Thibeault will get the nod for Sunday's game in Montreal.

It would make all the difference in the world.

The 28-year-old, after all, has a wife and four children to support. He bought a house last year in Regina thinking his three-year career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders had nowhere to go but up.

The 'Riders, however, didn't re-sign him. He was a last-minute addition to Bomber training camp in the spring, but he was among the first cuts.

"That wasn't the best time to have a financial struggle," Thibeault said yesterday.

So he went home to Regina, wondering what he was going to do next. He turned down an assistant coaching position with the University of Sherbrooke football team and another job back home as well, saying the fire to play football was still burning inside him.

His usual off-season job as a substitute teacher wouldn't work because it was summer, so he ended up taking a job as a Coca-Cola merchandiser. He was making about as much as he would on a CFL practice roster, which isn't a lot.

"I was living in Wal-Marts," Thibeault said. "There's three Wal-Marts in Regina. I know them all. I wasn't working there for too long, but I know them all from top to bottom."

Then, last week, the call came from Bombers GM Brendan Taman. He needed a receiver.

"I looked at my wife, and I even asked her permission, like a kid asking his dad," Thibeault said.

One supportive woman

It turns out his wife of six years, Judeline, is one supportive woman. When her husband ended up on the Bomber practice roster last week, she was more upset that he wasn't playing than at the wage he was earning.

"She doesn't care about the money," Thibeault said. "She wants me to play."

Thibeault does care, however, because he's the provider. He's the one who makes sure that Malcolm, 10, Tammara, 8, Kayla, 6, and Demitree, 1, are well fed and have a roof over their heads.

"The least I could do is feed my family," said Thibeault, who wrote an RCMP entrance exam over the weekend in Regina. "That's all that matters to me. A lot of times my kids go before me.

"They come first, and I'm second."

Right now, Thibeault's dream of playing pro football is front and centre. He sees his university contemporaries, like Montreal's Dave Stala and Richard Karikari, with starting jobs and wonders why he doesn't have one too.

"I'm here every morning studying film, studying my playbook, lifting, running," he said. "I'm trying to take a step ahead of everybody."

And he's trying to collect that first game cheque since last season.

"Yeah, especially with four kids and the financial struggle we had the last few months," he said. "Just one game cheque is going to put a lot of things back into place, as far as payments and stuff. Oh my gosh."


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