Just taking classes online managed to turn into a competition for Trevor Harris.
When the 2020 CFL season was put on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris had time on his hands. So, the Edmonton Football Team quarterback registered with the National Academy of Sports Medicine for courses on becoming a certified personal trainer and nutritionist.
“I’m just a driven person,” Harris said. “It was one of those courses where you start it and then you can kind of go at your own pace. It was recommended to take six months. The competitor in me was making sure I beat the timeline.”
Taking the courses was partially a distraction that gave Harris “something to work towards.” But the knowledge he gained has real-world applications for his football career. He’s already sharing some of what he learned in the nutritionist course with his family and friends.
“It was running parallel with my football journey and allowing me to be a resource for my teammates,” said the 34-year-old native of Waldo, Ohio.
“It would argue that 80 per cent of the way you perform is your nutrition and sleep and water intake. I think it’s made me a better football player and I think it will make me a better leader.”
Harris has also worked with postural alignment specialists and trained with the same body coaches as Tom Brady to build a data base of information he can draw upon.
“Nobody knows my body like me,” he said. “I’ve kind of built this pyramid for myself. You’re making sure your nutrition is dialed in, you’re getting your sleep and water, you want your kinetic chain firing properly.
“I want to be able to play at my peak until I’m in my 40s. I think the number one ability we have as pros is dependability and availability. I don’t want to miss a single game for the next seven years. That’s kind of where my head is. I think the best years of my career are directly ahead of me.”
Harris signed as a free agent with Edmonton in 2019 after spending three years with the Ottawa REDBLACKS. In his first season he had 13 starts, completing 343 of 478 passes for 4,027 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Harris set two CFL playoff records in Edmonton’s 37-29 win over Montreal in the Eastern Semi-Final by completing 22 consecutive passes and 92.3 percent of his throws.
During an eight-year career that began in Toronto, the six-foot-three, 215-pound Harris has thrown for 22,182 yards, 120 touchdowns and 52 interceptions. He was part of the Ottawa team that won the Grey Cup in 2016 and the starter on the team that lost to Calgary in 2018.
There’s been plenty of changes in Edmonton since Harris last played a game. Head coach Jason Maas was fired and replaced by Scott Milanovich, who then resigned in January to take a job as the quarterbacks coach with the NFL Indianapolis Colts.
That resulted in Jaime Elizondo being hired as Edmonton’s head coach and offensive coordinator. Elizondo worked with Harris during his three years as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Ottawa.
“He has a creative mind,” said Harris. “He’s usually a few steps ahead of other people in terms of schematically what we want to do. We’ve been able to combine some ideas.
“I think his system is evolving into a hybrid, somethings that you’ll start to see in the future in the CFL. I’m excited about a lot of the things that we’re doing. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
On the field, Edmonton has lost receivers like Ricky Collins, DaVaris Daniels and Natey Adjei. The team still has depth at receiver with Greg Ellingson, Armanti Edwards, Derel Walker and Tevaun Smith.
Harris also likes the addition of offensive linemen Derek Dennis and Randy Richards.
“There’s a ton of talent on this roster,” he said. “Let’s just go play some ball.”
Last winter Harris agreed to restructure his contract, taking less money to help Edmonton meet salary-cap requirements. It was a move Harris initiated.
“I wanted to make sure that they knew my mindset was that I wanted to be able to help out,” he said. “I love this organization. I want to do everything we can to put a championship caliber team on the field. I want to do the actions that prove that rather than just say it out loud.”
Harris thinks he was eight years old the last time he didn’t play football for over a year. He missed the game but understands other families suffered a lot more by losing loved ones to the pandemic.
“It was a lot of ups and downs,” he said.
The CFL hopes to return to play in August. After such a long layoff, Harris said it’s hard to predict how sharp players will be.
“I think it’s how well you can gel in camp,” he said. “I think there’s going to be some teams that are rusty out of the gate that will play their best football late.
“There’s going to be some teams that are on fire and really play well all year. Then there’s going to be teams that are on fire early and then struggle. If defence dominates early, I won’t be shocked. If there’s a lot of points scored, I won’t be shocked either.”
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