One happy camper

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

It's been a year since Kyries Hebert did just that, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been reaping the rewards ever since.

The Bombers, as you may recall, plucked Hebert off waivers last April in the wake of the Ottawa Renegades dispersal draft. The transaction occurred literally five minutes before he was about to become a free agent and sign with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.

Hebert didn't like that move one bit, and he fought the Blue and Gold over it for nearly three months, threatening to take it to arbitration.

When he realized it was a war he wasn't going to win, the linebacker-safety relented, and the Bombers met him in the middle, reducing the five-year contract he signed with the Renegades to a three-year deal that included an option.

After some last-minute legal moves to get him over the U.S.-Canada border (Hebert had been charged after a January 2006 domestic dispute), he finally reported to Winnipeg on July 9, 2006.

He couldn't believe yesterday that it has already been a year since he arrived in Manitoba.

"I've been pretty much on fast forward and focusing on what's coming up in our future to a point where I'm not even looking back (at) those things," Hebert said. "It has nothing to do with the past."

And that is one of the many reasons why Bombers head coach Doug Berry loves his starting safety and special teams demon. Despite the dark clouds that hovered over his arrival -- Berry's famous line was, "I'm not asking Kyries to date my daughter. I'm asking Kyries to go out and be a football player." -- Hebert has been an ultimate pro over the last 12 months.

"It goes beyond his playing," Berry said. "He's really a good guy, and he's a great locker-room guy. He's a great leader on the field, very motivated.

"... Just think of somebody you know who loves to do something; he loves to play football. It's the most exciting thing in his life, and that's the way he plays. You can see it."

But here's the weird part: Hebert still has feelings of bitterness, even one year later, about Winnipeg squashing his NFL aspirations at the last minute, only because it had a negative effect on his personal life for reasons he won't divulge.

"The feelings haven't changed much," he said.

Yet there he is, game after game, giving it his all for the Blue and Gold.

"I'm a team guy, so it worked out great for the team," Hebert said. "This is the organization that I'm a part of, I'm committed to, I'm loyal to.

"I come out here, and I wear these colours with pride and try to be the best teammate and player that I can be."

However, thanks to that reworked contract -- the reason he relented and reported to Winnipeg -- Hebert will have an opportunity to bolt for the NFL after this season.

"I'm focused on this year, because without this year there cannot be a next year anywhere," said Hebert, who leads the team with six special teams tackles (one of his six from Thursday has been taken away).

"I want to give it all we have, and hopefully we can win a Grey Cup. That's the ultimate goal every year, and I think this is the best chance that I've ever had, the best team that I've ever been a part of in this league.

"So I'm excited about this. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this thing's going to play out for this team."


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