No time on the CFL calendar breeds more optimism than the month of May and nowhere does the optimism seem higher than in the football hotbed of Saskatchewan.
After a disappointing season that saw the Roughriders fail to make the playoffs despite hosting the Grey Cup, the team went about remaking their roster in the off-season with the hope of bringing the franchise’s fifth Grey Cup title to the province.
The biggest area of change was made at the game’s most important position as the Riders swapped out 2019 Most Outstanding Player finalist Cody Fajardo for veteran Trevor Harris.
The Riders are Harris’ fifth stop in his 11-year CFL career and he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his new locale.
“He’s been as advertised,” Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson told the local media following the team’s first day of rookie camp. “I would say better but everybody knew what they were getting with Trevor and he’s been all that and more.”
What you get with Harris is a player who has just about seen it all. The Waldo, Ohio native has thrown for more than 28,000 yards in his career, won a pair of Grey Cups in Toronto and Ottawa, and played in another championship game with the Redblacks in 2018.
“It’s like having another coach out there. Super mature, understands the game really well, wants to lead and help others. He’s great,” said Dickenson.
The only thing that has eluded Harris during his CFL career is winning a Grey Cup as a starter. His two rings have come while backing up a pair of Canadian Football Hall of Famers in Ricky Ray and Henry Burris.
Harris has won just two playoff games as a starter since leading Ottawa to the championship game in 2018, a game they lost 27-16 to the Calgary Stampeders. Following a poor year in Edmonton, he saw his stock dwindle to the point that he began the 2022 season as Vernon Adams Jr.’s backup in Montreal.
An early-season quarterback change thrust Harris back into the starting lineup and he finished last season third in the league in passing yards with 4,157. His 20 touchdown passes ranked fourth.
Harris also helped lead the Alouettes to their first postseason victory since 2014 when they defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 28-17 in the East Semi-Final.
His career renaissance in La Belle Province gave way to his becoming the third-highest paid player in the CFL this season after he signed a two-year, $1-million deal with the Riders in free agency in February.
He is now the unquestioned leader of a CFL franchise once again and with a big paycheque comes big expectations.
“With him leading the charge, the team’s going to be a certain way,” Dickenson said. “It’s going to be the way I envisioned it as well which is we’re going to have a smart team, we’re going to play hard and we’re going to play together, and Trevor embodies all of those things.”
General manager Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson are both in the final years of their contracts. The pair have tied their future in Saskatchewan to Harris and they will need the veteran to play as advertised if they hope to remain with the team beyond the 2023 season.