Weston Dressler’s playing days appear to be done, but what a career it has been.
From Bismarck High School retiring his number, to setting 19 records at UND, to becoming a six-time Canadian Football League All-Star, Dressler was a difference-maker at every level.
Recently hired by Sanford Health as senior community relations specialist for the Bismarck region, the 11-year CFL veteran is ready to turn the page.
“I haven’t officially filed retirement papers yet, but I’m definitely retired,” Dressler said on Wednesday. “It’s hard to step away from something you’ve been doing your whole life. A part of me wishes I could play the game forever, but that’s not possible. There comes a point in your life where you need to start transitioning to what’s next, and with two little ones and with the great opportunity Sanford offered, it felt like this was the time to make that next step.”
Married to wife Tegan and two kids younger than 2 years old – son Cooper (1 ½) and 2-month old daughter Nova – life’s priorities began to shift.
“I think I’ll always miss the game. I’m sure 15 or 20 years from now I’ll be watching a game on TV and still wish I could go out there and catch a touchdown pass, but there are positive tradeoffs as well,” Dressler said. “My body feels a whole lot better now than it would be if I was in the middle of the season.”
Dressler’s CFL career is sure to generate Hall of Fame consideration.
He had over 11,000 receiving yards, more than 2,000 return yards and more than 70 touchdowns. He was the 2003 CFL Rookie of the Year with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and won the Grey Cup (the CFL’s Super Bowl) in 2013 with Saskatchewan.
He earned a brief shot with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs in 2014, but returned to the Roughriders later that season.
Dressler spent his final three seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He did not just limp off into the sunset, either. Despite a leg injury, he still produced 68 catches for 535 yards and five touchdowns last season for the Blue Bombers.
All of that followed four years at UND, where he rewrote the record books at the wide receiver position. His name remains at the top or very close to more than 20 records. In the history of UND football, nobody has accounted for more yards (7,702), and only running back Phillip Moore (53) has more touchdowns than Dressler’s 44.
As has been said before, he was a Division I player during UND's Division II era.
It’s a staggering résumé which is yet to fully sink in.
“Honestly, it’s been such a busy summer as far as planning the move back to Bismarck with my family and everything else that there really hasn’t been a lot of time to reflect back on football being over,” Dressler said. “I think more than anything is that I’m thankful for the career I was able to have and the people that I was able to meet.”
Dressler’s statistical achievements will stand the test of time, but that’s not what he'll remember most.
“Some of my best friends I grew up playing with in Bismarck are still some of my best friends today. Same with UND that the friends I made there are still some of my best friends and that also happened with the guys I played with professionally. Those bonds and relationships, those are the things that really stand out,” he said. “Obviously, I was very lucky to play professionally for 11 years and I had a blast doing it.”
Dressler, 34, was well-known for his mentorship of younger players in the CFL, at times almost serving as a player-coach. It’s a role that continues to appeal to him now that his playing days are over.
“(Coaching) definitely was one of the avenues I considered going down when I was done playing,” he said. “When the opportunity at Sanford came up, it was something that really fit with where I’m at in life right now, but coaching is something I enjoy. The college and high school levels, being able to teach more in the early development stage, that is something I'd like to do. Hopefully, whether it’s through camps or whatever, I’ll be able to continue to stay involved with the game.”