Grey Cup will have Harris highlights

Former V.I. Raiders standout could play a starring role in CFL's championship game Sunday (Nov. 27).

He scored more touchdowns at Nanaimo’s Caledonia Park than anyone else.

He scores them regularly in the Canadian Football League.

And still, Andrew Harris hasn’t come up with a trademark touchdown dance. When he breaks the plane of the goal line these days at B.C. Place stadium, he simply throws the football up into the stands.

“It’s just to get the fans more into the game and make it more enjoyable for them,” he said. “Every time I go into the endzone they’re going to get excited that much more now because they know a ball’s coming.”

Harris, the former V.I. Raiders star, is experiencing stardom in professional football. His two touchdowns in the Western final last weekend helped propel his Lions into the 99th Grey Cup, to be held this Sunday (Nov. 27) at B.C. Place.

Harris is the starting tailback, the primary ball carrier for the favoured team in Canada’s biggest football game. He’s gaining yards, catching passes, breaking tackles and scoring touchdowns.

Those moments just before his celebratory football tosses, said Harris, are hard to put into words.

“When you finally realize you’re going to score, you can feel the whole crowd exploding because they can see you’re about to score,” he said. “It’s undescribable. You can feel it in your chest, you can feel it deep down in your soul that you did something great and you just lifted 40,000 people to their feet. It’s like nothing else that I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Grey Cup week is taking things to a whole other level. It’s been crazy, Harris said. There are media requests every single day. Almost all his former teammates and coaches have tried to reach him this week, to offer congratulations, wish him luck and express their pride.

His fan base keeps expanding. Earlier in the playoff run, Harris and his teammates received, from a Grade 3 elementary school class in Delta, hand-made, personalized postcards.

“Mine said, ‘Good luck this week, good job scoring three touchdowns against Montreal, make sure you dodge all the tacklers and don’t get hurt’,” Harris said. “That kind of stuff’s cool.”

As a way to give back, he’s already planning youth football camps for the spring. The first would be in Nanaimo, he said, and then he’ll think about bringing them to the Lower Mainland and his hometown of Winnipeg.

It’s an interesting sidebar that Sunday’s big game is against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the team Harris grew up cheering for.

“For my friends and family back in Winnipeg, they’re that much more excited because they were Bombers fans until I started playing for the B.C. Lions,” he said. “Now they have that added little bit of tension.”

It also makes Harris even more of a central figure going into the Grey Cup, though he would be in the thick of things, regardless. As his profile on the sports highlights has risen, so too has his standing on the Lions.

“They rely on me to make plays more now and they expect me to make plays. That’s a good feeling,” he said.

Some of those teammates, like veteran receiver Geroy Simon, have offered wisdom to a 24-year-old caught up in an experience of a lifetime.

“I’m trying to focus on our game plan; you try to prepare for that but there’s so much other stuff going on around you that it’s a little bit harder to focus, for sure,” Harris said.

“I went to talk to Geroy about it. I said, ‘How do you do this?’ He said, ‘You’ve just got to enjoy it.’”

GAME ON … The B.C. Lions play the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 99th Grey Cup this Sunday (Nov. 27). Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. at B.C. Place stadium. The game will be broadcast on TSN.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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