It’s his trademark, that one characteristic that defines him above everything else in what will ultimately be a hall-of-fame career.
Deep inside the belly of Andrew Harris there is a fire – a raging inferno more like it – that is his engine.
It has driven him from being an undrafted junior player who first got a look-see from the B.C. Lions into a two-time Grey Cup champion, a holder of three Canadian Football League rushing crowns and the face of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. And after officially signing a one-year contract extension to remain with the club less than a month away from free agency, the 33-year-old Winnipegger insists that fire is still roaring.
“Absolutely it’s still there,” began Harris in a chat with bluebombers.com. “Everything you do in life, no matter what field or career you’re in, you have to have that fire in your belly to want to get up every day and go out and be successful.
“It’s definitely part of professional sports and especially in football where it’s a young man’s game and they’re always bringing someone in or have someone ready to replace you.
“That fire in your belly needs to be there or you won’t last very long. It’s still there. It still burns. I’m excited, now that it’s 100 percent that I’m coming back, to put that fire to good use in my training to put the best player I can out there come May-June.”
The signing of Harris removes THE biggest name from the Bombers’ pending free agent list. He is the reigning three-time CFL rushing champ, a five-time CFL All-Star and the MVP and Most Valuable Canadian from the 2019 Grey Cup.
Yet, during our conversation it was Harris who also brought up the fact he will be 34 in April and with the CFL’s 2020 season having been wiped out, doubters will be seeking evidence of some sort of drop off in his play – even though his 2018 and 2019 numbers were the best of his career.
“Every offseason I always get nervous about where I’m going to be physically coming into the season,” he explained. “Can I still catch? Can I still run? So, after have a full year off I’m definitely going to be very nervous about how I’m going to be coming back.
“Those are the nerves that get me going and that’s part of what pushes me. Having a year off means I have that in the back of my mind and it’s definitely going to push me over the next few months here as far as training and preparing for the season. And I’m sure there will be lots of naysayers as I’m turning 34 in April and my age will be a question.
“There are different things that motivate people and for me it has always been doubt, bits of fear and little barriers you might have and trying to overcome them,” he added. “Turning that into a positive – fighting through those barriers and fears and overcoming them – that’s what excites me, that’s what gets me up in the morning and drives me to keep playing this game.”
Now, it’s one thing to say the fire still burns, but another altogether to put that passion into action. And so we asked Harris to cite examples of how he knows he still has the passion for the game and is not simply willing himself to think he does.
“It’s there when I watch clips or talk to my teammates, when I think about how much I miss the locker room and the day-to-day preparation,” he said “I talked to Coach Buck (Pierce, offensive coordinator) the other day, and Coach Bourgs (Kevin Bourgoin, former running backs coach now leading the receivers) and other people in the organization and I can tell you I’m excited about coming back.
“I still get chills when I drive up to IG Field, whether it’s for media, for practice or just to go to the Bomber Store. I know driving up there for game day again is going to still give me the ultimate chill. So when you still have you have those feelings, they’re all indicators the fire is still there.”
Harris wouldn’t paint himself into a future corner when asked if this could be his last contract, saying he will play in 2021 and then evaluate things after that.
“Plus, my body feels great and I’m still playing at a high level,” he said. “Why would I stop doing something I love doing?”
There’s also this: with so many Bombers having re-signed or had their contracts restructured to help the salary-cap crunch – that total is now 18 and counting – Harris is intrigued at the possibilities of taking a shot at going back to back and repeating as Grey Cup champions.
“I’ve been sitting here watching guy after guy after guy sign with us,” Harris said. “It’s definitely inspiring. It just shows how much of a great thing we’ve built here. Obviously there’s less money involved because of everything, but there’s an excitement in just talking to guys and all that doesn’t really faze us. We’re just all so excited to get back to work.
“At this point in my career I’m also motivated by my teammates. I also realized just how much excitement there was being part of one Grey Cup here. Now the biggest thing is to do it again.
“How exciting would it be to do it back to back?”
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