WINNIPEG - Buck Pierce has helped guide the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a home playoff game for the first time since 2008.
The quarterback is now officially a pretty good guy off the field, too.
Pierce on Wednesday was named the winner of the team's Ed Kotowich Good Guy Award, given annually to the player who shows "excellence in combining football ability, team camaraderie and extraordinary effort in the community."
"I've always found it important to make sure to give back and do a lot of work," Pierce said. "I've always made it a point to do that. You don't do it for recognition. That's not why I do it, but it is nice to get recognized.
"We've done some good things in the community just in the short two years I've been here. We'll continue to do that. I've met a lot of nice people here, and it's been great."
Pierce decided to live in Winnipeg year-round, which was a brave move for someone who had never come close to experiencing a Manitoba winter before. He did it to rehab his elbow injury, but more importantly to prove to the Bombers that he wanted to be the man to lead the organization in 2011.
He also proved his dedication by visiting many points in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario, making stops in places like Neepawa, Thompson and Kenora.
And he lived to tell about it.
"It was great. It gave me a chance to get in touch with the people of Manitoba and Winnipeg," said Pierce, who was one of three or four players wearing shorts in the nippy practice conditions on Wednesday. "It was an experience for me that was very fulfilling, and I enjoyed it. I've done things that I haven't ever done before and experienced things that I haven't experienced.
"You find out a lot about the tradition of this club by sticking around and just really, it was a humbling experience. It was just a lot of fun."
Pierce has also been involved with the United Way and the team's I Love to Read program.
"It's important to make sure that you do whatever you can in your short career of football," Pierce said. "It's rare that you have opportunities to reach so many people with the job that you do, and I think it's important that you do that. I'll continue to do that, and honestly it's probably one of my favourite things about this job."
Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said he is hoping more players will follow Pierce's lead and live in Winnipeg year-round, giving them more of anoppotrunity to donate their time to worthy causes.
The Ed Kotowich Good Guy Award is named after the man who played for the Bombers between 1955 and 1961, appearing in three Grey Cup games and doing plenty of work in the community.
2011 - Buck Pierce
2010 - Doug Brown
2009 - Jon Oosterhuis
2008 - Obby Khan
2007 - Milt Stegall
2006 - Chris Cvetkovic
2005 - Milt Stegall
2004 - Matt Sheridan
2003 - Moe Elewonibi
2002 - Dave Mudge
2001 - Brett MacNeil
2000 - Troy Westwood
1999 - Dave Vankoughnett
1998 - Glen Scrivener
1997 - Wade Miller
1996 - Wade Miller
1995 - Miles Gorrell
1994 - Matt Pearce
1993 - Matt Dunigan
1992 - Darryl Sampson
1991 - Matt Pearce
1990 - Rod Hill
1989 - Perry Tuttle
1988 - Trevor Kennerd
1987 - Vernon Pahl