Back in 1990, he was a teammate who shared in a Grey Cup victory.
Three years ago, he became a good friend at a very difficult time.
So the passing of former Blue Bomber lineman Nick Benjamin hit Bomber president Lyle Bauer hard as he received the news yesterday.
Benjamin, a Bomber from 1989-93, died after a battle with kidney disease. He was 46.
"What comes to mind is just a great guy, very jovial," Bauer said. "You could hear his laugh forever. A great teammate and a great guard. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family. He has been fighting a really tough battle in the last while, and we do know he's in a better place now."
Benjamin, who'd been waiting for a kidney transplant while on dialysis, suffered a massive stroke early last week, before succumbing Monday afternoon.
Bauer says he became close to Benjamin well after their playing days, when Bauer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004.
"When your own mortality comes into play, you reconnect," Bauer said.
"And we had many great conversations. Obviously our own situations were different, but similar in many ways. We talked about old times, about family and friends and things along those lines, and the memories being so important."
Born in Trinidad, Benjamin was a college star at Concordia University in Montreal. Ottawa chose him first overall in the CFL draft, and he played five seasons for the Rough Riders before joining Winnipeg.
He was the East Division nominee for the Outstanding Rookie Award with Ottawa in '95, and was part of the Bomber team that beat Edmonton 50-11 in the Grey Cup five years later.
After retiring from football, he made his home in Winnipeg.
A memorial service is planned for Monday.