The BC Lions will enter the fortress of Tim Horton’s field Saturday and will be considered the underdog by many.
There was a point in the life of Andrew Harris where he was an underdog as well. In 2004, Harris was a 17-year old kid from Winnipeg who left home for the west coast to play junior football, after a chance to go to Wilfred Laurier University fell through because of his grades.
Harris made the most of the move not only on the field but off it. On the field he was unstoppable as a running back for the Vancouver Island Raiders. He was so impressive he caught the eye of Wally Buono, who wisely added him as one of the club’s territorial exemptions and the rest has been history. In 2008, while playing for the Raiders, Harris practiced with the Lions and as you can see why by this highlight package from that season.
It was with the Raiders that Harris would inherit his number 33. His good friend and teammate, Aaron Niedergesaess, was killed in a car crash midway through the 2008 season. Harris took over the number of his friend as a tribute and has worn it ever since.
Off the field, the move to BC forced Harris to grow up fast. He was on his own for the first time with real life responsibilities to manage.
He became a father and was determined be the best he could be to his daughter Hazel, after not having a father figure in his own life until meeting his own dad for the first time in 2014. It was an introduction that went well and the two remain in contact as they make up for lost time.
Harris has become one of the faces of the franchise and at 28 years of age has grown beyond his years, now a veteran leader of a Lions locker room that is the youngest in the Canadian Football League. He’s laying down roots in Vancouver as well, moving to the city full-time after years of returning to Winnipeg in the off-season. This year he opened a restaurant in Vancouver (Meat City Sandwiches) with former teammates Jon Hameister-Ries and Andrew Jones.
2015 has seen Harris return with a vengeance on the field and he’s easily in the early discussions for top Canadian and league MOP. He looks stronger and more powerful than he’s ever been. Starting Canadian tailbacks are a rarity in the CFL, a position often reserved for American players and having one is a luxury that is a ratio breaker for any CFL club.
Heading into week seven, Harris led the league in yards from scrimmage, touchdowns and rushing but it’s not only his play on the field that has been impressive. He seems to have matured a little more and is thriving with the amount of work he’s getting in the Cortez/Tedford offence.
Harris is also in the final year of his contract with the Lions and to date there has been no news of an extension. The Lions likely wanted to see how Harris would come back from the ankle injury that ended his year in 2014. That injury was serious one and even had Harris questioning his future in the game.
“It’s indescribable, to be honest with you, because there was a point when I thought I wasn’t going to play anymore. I felt I was done. I was just emotionally out of it. I was just thinking: this might be the point where I can’t play anymore.”
That test has been passed with flying colours, so Lions fans will be waiting anxiously for news of an extended agreement of their star running back. Andrew Harris seems to thrive in big games, and their biggest test of the season comes Saturday at Tim Hortons Field.
He’s been the underdog before, and done just fine.