CFL Pass

Camaraderie The Memories Nowacki Enjoys Most

Andrew Nowacki hasn’t played with the Eskimos since 2011, but he’s still a team guy.

The 38-year-old former receiver (2004-11) was back at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium last week “to support Fred (Stamps) with his retirement.”

Stamps, a former Eskimos teammate of Nowacki’s, officially retired from the CFL team at halftime of Edmonton’s season-opening game against the Montreal Alouettes.

“It’s great to be back and actually to get to watch an Eskimos game for a change,” said Nowacki, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “This is my first live game since I finished playing here. I haven’t watched a game in the stands in Commonwealth for a long, long time, so it’s nice to be able to sit back and enjoy the game with some old friends.”

An Eskimos third-round draft pick in 2004, Nowacki tries to get back to Edmonton “any chance I can” – he was in town to participate in some Grey Cup events last November. He also liked seeing the finished result of the renovations that have been made and the facilities added to Commonwealth since he played in Edmonton.

Nowacki said he’s “keeping busy down in Florida” with work and his two daughters.

“They’re great,” he said about Everly, 9, and Isla, 2. “They’re very, very close to one another. I’m very blessed to have two beautiful, happy, healthy girls.”

Nowacki went back to school during his final season with the Eskimos to get his MBA (Master in Business Administration) in 2012.

“I got into real estate and have been working in real estate since,” he said.

Asked about his favourite memories from his playing career, Nowacki said: “Two easy ones. Grey Cup 2005. One of the best games I ever played in. And the Jason Tucker return game back in Edmonton. We played BC here. It was after his neck injury. The atmosphere, the electricity, the emotion in the stadium, I’ve never been a part of anything like that, including the Grey Cup, just because of the added, extra emotion that we all felt.

“Having Tuck come back given the circumstances and the situation and everything, it was by far one of the best memories/games that I was a part of.”

Tucker, who is coaching the Eskimos receivers this season, suffered a C6-C7 fracture dislocation in his spine in Edmonton’s previous game. Because it was an unstable fracture, surgery was scheduled because the medical staff was worried the injury could cause nerve damage.

Nowacki gave his 2005 Grey Cup ring to his father on Andrew’s wedding day, but the two now share the ring.

“We kind of pass it back and forth, but he knows that it’s his,” Nowacki said. “I use it for some promotional stuff. I rarely wear it, but if there’s an event coming up where I’m in a sports atmosphere or environment, then I’ll take it and wear it there.”

Nowacki caught a nine-yard pass from future CFL Hall of Fame quarterback Ricky Ray for his first CFL touchdown, but said, “it wasn’t a huge deal.”

“I was kind of an under-the-radar kind of player, and that was fine with me,” he explained. “I take more pride in the Grey Cup and the memories I’ve created with these guys over any sort of personal accolade that I got while I was here.

“We all have a piece to this puzzle, and that’s the piece I fit into, and I was fine with that. We had a ton of talent. We had Jason Tucker, Mookie (Mitchell) was here, Ed Hervey was here. Fred Stamps. Jason Barnes. The list goes on and on. These were great guys, great talents, and I was part of the supporting cast.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you how many receptions I had, how yards I had, how many touchdowns. I know I have one Grey Cup ring and a ton of memories and relationships that came out of those eight years.”

For the record, if Nowacki ever needs to know some of his statistics with the Eskimos, here they are:

He didn’t get to play much during his rookie season in the CFL, but put up his best numbers in 2006 – 47 catches for 465 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 28 receptions for 369 yards and two TDs in 2008 and 30 catches for 423 yards and a major in 2009.

“Andrew Nowacki’s contributions to our club cannot be measured solely by statistics,” then-Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed said in 2012 when the team released Nowacki. “With his intense desire to win and a commitment to always putting the team first, Andrew was everything you want a veteran player to be.”

“He’s a guy that just goes out there and lays it on the line every game,” former teammate Kamau Peterson said in 2009. “I think he’s one of the best utility guys in the league. He catches balls and plays special teams, all special teams, and you can’t quite explain how important that is.”