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ANDREW HARRIS (no. 33) actually dreamed of being a hockey player first (Photo by Jeff Miller)

By SCOTT TAYLOR

Winnipeg Blue Bombers 31-year-old runningback, Andrew Harris, is the best football player in Canada. I won’t even argue the point. Say anything you like. Go ahead, bring up Adam Bighill. You’ll still get no argument, just contradiction.

 

 

 

Nobody in the Canadian game does all the things Harris does as well as Harris does them. In fact, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers do not win if Harris doesn’t touch the football.
He is clearly the best running back in the game. That stands without argument. He is probably the best pass catcher among running backs and might be one of the Top Five pass catchers, period. He is also an excellent blocker, likely the best blocker among CFL running backs today. He’s fearless and in most cases, tougher than the people who want to tackle him.

On November 18 at McMahon Stadium, Harris led the Bombers in rushing, carrying 1three times for 71 yards. He also caught four passes for nine yards as the Bombers were beaten 22-14 in the Western final.
There were many reasons why the Bombers lost to Calgary on Sunday. The Stamps were better, for one thing. They hit harder, they were better coached and their best players made big plays at crucial times.
The Bombers scored only 14 points, which says a lot about the state of the team’s offensive attack. A decision to deny Harris the ball early in the game definitely hurt the Blue Bombers’ attack.
In fact, Harris carried only six times for 48 yards in the first half and touched it only seven times in the second half. To his credit, when asked by TSN’s Sara Orlesky about his team’s offensive problems at halftime, he avoided answering the question. He mumbled something about opportunities, but in reality, if Harris had been part of the offence – as he was against Saskatchewan when he rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries a week earlier – the outcome might have been different and Winnipeg would have had more opportunities to score.

After all, Harris has been the CFL’s rushing leader for two straight seasons. This past year, he carried 239 times for 1,390 yards and eight touchdowns (fourth). Harris was 38th in receiving in the CFL with 58 catches for 451 yards. He played all 18 games.
Oh, and did we say that he also blocks.
Andrew Harris is a football player. The consummate football player. Although, he almost wasn’t. As a kid, and as the proud son of a wonderful single mom, Harris was a heck of a hockey player.
“I always wanted to be a hockey player when I was young,” he told me a few years ago. “When I was young, my heroes were Steve Yzerman and Paul Kariya. I loved the game and I still do today.”
He must. In the off-season, Harris still plays hockey three times a week with his buddies in the Adult Safe Hockey League at Canlan.

So why didn’t he pursue the game? Even though teams in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League had shown interest in the game, the cost of playing just became too prohibitive for Andrew and his mom.
“The fees, the equipment, the travel expenses, it was all too much for my mom and me and I sometimes wonder how families can afford it today,” Harris said candidly. “I played at a time when composite sticks were just coming out. I played with a wooden stick because composites were $100 at the time and that was just too much because I would go through a stick a week. When I looked around, I figured out that I was the only kid on the team with a wooden stick.
“I used to wear this old bubblehead helmet, something from the 80s, and I used to get teased about it, but I took it. That was just part of growing up. Still, it just got too expensive for us. I still think about what might have happened if I’d stuck with it. Some of the kids I played with got to the AHL and NHL. But I don’t have any regrets. I found football and I love the game.”
Considering what Harris has done in his three seasons in Winnipeg and in his remarkable eight-year career in the CFL, you can bet that Blue Bomber fans are quite pleased that he found football, found the programs at Grant Park High School and Oak Park High School and went out to B.C. to hone his craft.
In this case, it’s a good thing that hockey got way too expensive.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had a legitimate chance to win the Grey Cup this season, but when it mattered, the Bombers coaching staff decided to NOT get the football into the hands of the best offensive weapon in the Canadian Football League.
That’s the most disappointing part of the loss to the Stampeders..

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