On the job training

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

Ryan Donnelly is enjoying a homecoming of sorts.

And the offensive lineman's versatility may make it a lasting one.

Donnelly spent his formative years attending Vincent Massey Collegiate before moving back to Ontario. He was eventually drafted by Hamilton and suffered through some of the worst seasons in club history before the Tiger-Cats cast him adrift last winter.

The Blue Bombers quickly snapped him up and the 6-foot-6, 295-pound McMaster product may solve an immediate problem on the Winnipeg O-line. With veteran Obby Khan not expected back from surgery to remove his large intestine until late July, Donnelly could start the season at least as a backup to Dominic Picard.

"It's an awesome change for me," Donnelly said yesterday. "It's a different atmosphere. Guys I'm playing with here are great guys and I'm learning a lot from the (O-line) coach (Bob Wylie).

"It feels like a winning team, a winning atmosphere and I really want to get a chance to stay with these guys and learn as much as possible. It's my seventh year and I'm still learning from these guys, and that's a change for me."

Donnelly, who was responsible for the short snaps on field goal attempts in Hamilton, has been taking most of his reps at centre at training camp.

"I haven't played as much centre as other positions," he said. "But they've put some trust in me and put me in there and I'm enjoying picking it up as I go along. And I'm learning the terminology. The biggest thing for me is to make the (blocking) calls for the guys so that we're all on the same page. And once I get that down, that will be a lot easier and less to think about."

Donnelly, 29, started a number of games at both tackle and guard for the Tabbies.

"I'm really pleased with what we've gotten and what we've seen from Ryan," said Bomber head coach Doug Berry. "He's done a very good job. It's not easy to come in and learn a new system and then be able to execute from the centre spot.

"He's got some experience and will give us some depth at all the positions and good for him, he's making himself more valuable."

Donnelly does not really care where the Bombers want to put him.

"As long as I'm in the mix, I think things will work out really well," he said. "Even when Obby comes back, there will be some options we can play with."

And Wylie has already made camp intriguing.

"Bob's a character," Donelly said. "We'll be watching serious game film and going over plays, then all of a sudden, up on the projector goes a card trick. And I tell ya what, guys are still trying to figure out what he's doing. Then we get back into serious game film, then he pulls out these slides and we'll get some jokes up on the screen. So, he keeps the meetings fun, interesting, and when you're on the field, you work and you learn. Sometimes, it looks like we don't work hard but we work smarter out there. We're not running around, smashing into people, we're learning and we're getting better."

Donnelly actually led a rather nomadic lifestyle growing up because his father was an engineer. When he was seven, the family moved to a town in the Himalayas just west of Nepal and stayed there for four years.

"I could sit here all day and tell you stories about that that would probably make your head spin," Donnelly said.


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