Bombers star Andrew Harris says details, bond with OL led to rushing title

Andrew Harris pointed to a couple of reasons why he captured his first CFL rushing title and set a league record for receptions by a running back.

It was the extra, little things the Blue Bombers running back did during practices, plus the special bond he formed with the offensive line.

The eight-year veteran finished the season with 1,035 rushing yards after gaining 68 yards in a 23-5 victory over the Calgary Stampeders last Friday.

The win delivered a home game for the Bombers in Sunday’s West Division semifinal against the Edmonton Eskimos.

The team’s nominee for most outstanding Canadian also tallied 105 catches for 857 yards in 18 games, breaking Craig Ellis’s old CFL mark of 103 receptions from 1985.

Harris was among a few Bombers made available to the media on Monday’s off day as the team doesn’t practise until Wednesday.

“Just the little times where you could be sitting down (in practice) while special teams is going, but you want to run routes and catch balls with the quarterbacks and work on any points with the running backs coach,” Harris said of his approach this season.

“It’s just little things to keep that sword sharp. For me, it’s just persistence and working on the craft all year. More so than ever, this year I did that and it definitely paid off.”

The 30-year-old Winnipeg native also hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark twice during his first six seasons with the B.C. Lions.

He hasn’t yet celebrated this year’s feat with the offensive line, but is planning something. After all, he described a special “brotherhood” he has with the unit.

“I’ve never been closer with an O-line than I am with these seven guys we’ve got in the mix,” said the five-foot-10, 214-pound tailback.

“I’m in their little group chat. I’m probably 100 pounds underweight to be in the group chat, but they keep me in there. We’re just close, the confidence and the trust.”

Offensive tackle Stanley Bryant, this season’s most outstanding lineman, said the group feeds off Harris’s work ethic and skills.

“We just open holes for him and he makes us look good,” said Bryant, who signed with Winnipeg in 2015 after five seasons in Calgary.

“Sometimes he makes a guy miss when we don’t even block them. He’s been great this year; picking up blitzes, running over guys, doing the extra things he does and that amps us as an offensive line.”

That ground game will be counted on against the Eskimos as cold weather is expected for Sunday’s game, which is Winnipeg’s first home playoff game since 2011 and the first since Investors Group Field opened in 2013.

The Eskimos (12-6) are riding a five-game win streak, with their last loss 28-19 to the Bombers Sept. 30 in Edmonton. Winnipeg also beat them 33-26 at home Aug. 17 and their pre-season match ended in a 38-38 tie.

Winnipeg (12-6) has only won two of its past five games and the status of starting quarterback Matt Nichols remains up in the air. He missed last week’s win over the Stamps with a suspected calf injury. Dan LeFevour replaced him.

Receiver Weston Dressler said he’s glad the team has “a special football player” like Harris.

“His energy and his competitiveness, it goes a long way within the huddle and really throughout the whole team,” Dressler said.

Cornerback Chris Randle called Harris “the best dual running back in the league.”

“To go against a guy like that in practice every week has made us better as a defence,” said Randle, the team’s most outstanding defensive player.

“I know just by the numbers and what he’s been doing, he’s going to continue to excel and try to bring us the championship.”