With experience has come a new perspective for Henry Burris.
The 41-year-old quarterback will make his third Grey Cup appearance in four years Sunday when he leads the Ottawa Redblacks against the Calgary Stampeders at Toronto’s BMO Field. But while Burris is driven to win a third career CFL championship, this time it’s to share the victory with his wife, Nicole, and their two sons, Armand and Barron.
Armand was a toddler when Burris last won the Grey Cup in 2008 with Calgary, and Barron hadn’t yet been born. A win Sunday would secure Burris a nice $16,000 cheque and another gaudy championship ring, but more importantly allow his boys to celebrate by eating Fruit Loops from the hallowed trophy.
“That’s something I definitely want to experience with my family,” Burris said following Ottawa’s 35-23 East Division final win over Edmonton. “For me, that’s what this entire journey has been about because if it wasn’t for these couple of knuckleheads, making me have to stay on them to keep myself right, I wouldn’t be here.
“That’s why I’m out there giving it my all because I want to see the smiles on their faces and be able to celebrate truly what we’ve been through these past 20 years together and try to enjoy this special moment.”
One lesson Burris has learned over his 17 CFL seasons is there are no guarantees in pro football. Ottawa is making a second straight Grey Cup appearance – it lost last year’s game 26-20 to Edmonton _ despite posting an 8-9-1 record.
That made Ottawa the first team in league history to finish first in a division with a sub-.500 record and gave Burris a deeper appreciation of being given yet another chance to win a championship.
“We weren’t guaranteed to be back here this year and so that’s why each and every moment that we have to get back to The Show, it means that much more because I can’t play until I’m 50,” Burris said. “I’m not (Gordie Howe) and I’m not playing until I’m 52 because at some point I want to sit in the stands and watch these kids and be around crazy hockey parents in Ontario and Ottawa.
“At some point that’s what I have a passion to do.”
The 2016 season was also a challenging one for Burris. The CFL’s outstanding player last year suffered a broken pinky in Ottawa’s season-opening overtime win over Edmonton and was limited to just eight regular-season appearances.
But the six-foot-one, 190-pound Burris has remained Ottawa’s starter since replacing Trevor Harris in a 32-30 loss to Saskatchewan on Oct. 7. He was 4-3 as the Redblacks’ No. 1 quarterback and Sunday was 15-of-26 passing in snowy, windy conditions for 246 yards and two TDs with an interception.
Burris, one of just three CFL players to pass for over 60,000 career yards, hopes Grey Cup week will allow his boys to better understand the sacrifices their father has had to make during his pro career.
“They’re able to sit back and see what daddy is doing and learn from the things that daddy has experienced,” Burris said. “They see the trials and tribulations that dad goes through to help our family earn an honest living and to go out and have success in doing your job.”
Burris said his two boys are active in soccer and hockey and he hopes he can pass on to them the lessons he’s learned, on and off the football field.
“Hopefully I’ve been able to teach them and hopefully they can contribute these to their lives because at some point dad won’t be playing football anymore,” Burris said. “I just hope and pray they take advantage of these moments that we have.
“I definitely am because when the time is up for me it’s all about us sharing the moments with them. That’s why my focus is this week, enjoying (Grey Cup experience) with family and teammates.”
But not at the expense of forgetting why he and the Redblacks are in Toronto.
“I know our focus is what’s going on on Sunday,” Burris said. “But leading up to it you’re going to enjoy some special moments with your family, teammates and friends because that’s what these opportunities are all about.”