Ottawa Redblacks

Henry Burris - Quarterback- 2014-16 - Temple

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The Henry Burris Story - Peter King - MMQB 12-05-2016

Imagine you’re 41 years old, and playing possibly your last football game ever, and it’s the championship game, the 104th Grey Cup in Toronto. The only chance the huge underdog of your Ottawa Redblacks team has is for you to be great. When you run out on the field for warmups, you think, This is the biggest game of my life. Imagine taking your usual light jog around the field after stretching, and you feel a crunching feeling in your knee, and there’s an audible pop, and the knee buckles, and you’ve got to stop, and it locks up, and you bend down before anyone notices, fake-tying your shoe and gathering your thoughts with a leg that is virtually immobile. You think, Oh no. This can’t be happening. But of course it is.


You go into the trainers room and tell the medics to do what they have to do—just get me out there … they’re about to play the Canadian national anthem and toss the coin. The docs inject something in the knee joint and give you an oral painkiller, and in a couple of minutes, you’re feeling like you can move around a little bit. You jog-hobble out to the field, where the game is about to start. “Like Willis Reed with the Knicks,” you say later.


You’re pretty emotional, because you led the league in passing at age 38 in Hamilton, then got released. “Imagine Tom Brady leading the league in passing and getting released,” you say later. Then at 39 you go to this expansion team in Ottawa as the veteran stopgap, and the team finishes 2-16 in 2014, and everyone’s pounding on management to find your replacement. At 40 you lead the league in passing yards and win the Most Outstanding Player award and quiet the masses. And this year, at 41, early in the season, you break the pinky on your throwing hand, come back too soon from it, and eventually lose your job to your likely successor, Trevor Harris. And your wife tries to keep your spirits up for the six weeks Harris plays, telling you, “You’ll get another chance. You’ll get back in there. When you do, your body will be fresh, like Peyton Manning’s was last year.” That helps. And so late in the season you replace the ineffective Harris, and though your team finishes just 8-9-1, you win a bad Eastern Conference and get ready to face the dominant (15-2-1) Calgary Stampeders. There’s only a little pressure on you—no Ottawa team has won the Grey Cup in 40 years.


And everything goes right, even with the bum and numb knee. You’re up 27-7 in the third quarter. “Everything, I mean everything, was working, and it wouldn’t have mattered if Lawrence Taylor was on the other side,” you say later. But Calgary rallies, and scores in bunches, and recovers a popup onside kick in the last two minutes and kicks the tying field goal. Overtime, 33-33. Your heart sinks. My last chance, and it’s going down like this? Four touchdowns—two running, two passing—but it won’t matter it you don’t finish the job. On the first series of overtime—each team gets a shot in CFL OT—from the 11, you throw a strike to Ernest Jackson, who bobbles it once, twice, three times and secures it as he crosses the goal line and flops on the ground, keeping possession. Calgary fails to score, and you’re standing with teammates after the game-ending incompletion by Calgary, and everyone’s screaming, “We won! We won!” And you’re looking everywhere for a flag before you celebrate. No flag. You’ve won. Five touchdowns in all, and 35 of 46, 461 yards, and the Grey Cup MVP award. At 41.


There is a parade, with 55,000 in Ottawa a couple days later. The crowd chants, “M-V-P! M-V-P!” And then, “One more year! One more year!” And all you can think of and say, over and over again, through the chills, is, Wow. Wow. Wow. You’re on the ice before the NHL Senators game Wednesday, with another ovation. The U.S. Ambassador to Canada invites you (you’re from Oklahoma) and your wife to dinner Thursday. And another dinner awaits this week with Joe Biden, when the U.S. vice president visits Ottawa this week. “I feel like Barack Obama,” you say.
* * *
Yes, sometimes Henry Burris wishes his NFL moments in Green Bay (2001) and Chicago (2002 and ’03) went better. But then his son wouldn’t be bilingual. Then he wouldn’t know the wonders of the Canadian Rockies or the greatness of the Canadian capital, and he wouldn’t have made a life for himself and his family playing football.


“The opportunity Eli Manning got in the U.S., I got in Canada, and I’m very grateful,” Burris said the other day. “Hopefully the people back home get to see what I’ve become. Canada is such a great country, a wide-open, free country. I’ve had the chance here to further my career and play the game I love. It’s not NFL money, but is that the important part? Not to me. You can make money through the rest of your life. But you’ve got to earn a Grey Cup. They’ll never be able to take this Grey Cup, and this win, away from us.”
 

-- statistics --

 

 

Henry Burris       Temple  
    Passing        
Yr Team Att Cmp Yds Pct. TD Int Lg
1998 Cgy 11 5 83 45.5 0 1 26
1999 Cgy 60 36 529 60.0 4 4 63
2000 Ssk 576 308 4,647 53.5 30 25 81
2001 Played in NFL          
2002 Played in NFL          
2003 Ssk 24 11 130 45.8 1 0 31
2004 Ssk 544 322 4,267 59.2 23 18 70
2005 Cgy 435 265 4,290 60.9 23 12 70
2006 Cgy 537 305 4,453 56.8 23 18 74
2007 Cgy 471 285 4,279 60.5 34 14 85
2008 Cgy 591 381 5,094 64.5 39 14 85
2009 Cgy 571 339 4,831 59.4 22 16 62
2010 Cgy 559 370 4,945 66.2 38 20 100
2011 Cgy 442 281 3,687 63.6 20 12 81
2012 Ham 604 391 5,356 64.7 43 18 95
2013 Ham 568 374 4,927 65.8 25 19 64
2014 Ott 517 315 3,728 60.9 11 14 60
2015 Ott 678 481 5,693 70.9 26 13 84
2016 Ott 264 180 2,419 68.2 12 9 62
Total 17 7452 4649 63358 62.4 374 227 100

 

    Rushing    
Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
1998 Cgy 2 4 2.0 2 0
1999 Cgy 13 81 6.2 16 0
2000 Ssk 68 188 2.8 17 8
2001 Played in NFL      
2002 Played in NFL      
2003 Ssk 2 16 8.0 9 0
2004 Ssk 84 464 5.5 34 7
2005 Cgy 82 513 6.3 31 9
2006 Cgy 70 480 6.9 21 5
2007 Cgy 85 623 7.3 39 5
2008 Cgy 87 595 6.8 35 3
2009 Cgy 106 552 5.2 30 11
2010 Cgy 70 491 7.0 27 3
2011 Cgy 51 385 7.5 34 4
2012 Ham 45 343 7.6 23 0
2013 Ham 46 298 6.5 19 0
2014 Ott 57 258 4.5 20 2
2015 Ott 75 274 3.7 14 7
2016 Ott 21 88 4.2 13 4
Total 17 964 5653 5.9 39 68

 

-- NFL --

 

 

    Passing        
Yr Team Att Cmp Yds Pct. TD Int Lg
2002 Chi 51 18 207 35.3 3 5 45
Total 1 51 18 207 35.3 3 5 45

 

    Rushing    
Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
2002 Chi 15 104 6.9 17 0
Total 2 15 104 6.9 17 0