December 22, 2018

Year in Review | #5 Harris goes back-to-back

He was good. Anyone who had watched the Canadian Football League over a span from 2010-15 would easily attest to that.

Yes, Andrew Harris had already carved out a solid career with the B.C. Lions during his first six seasons in the CFL before he opted to head east and join his hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers as a free agent in 2016.

But ask any Bomber faithful – heck, even those in the team’s locker room, coaching staff and upper management – and they’ll all agree no one knew he was this good. So good, in fact, that he can now be included among the pantheon of Bombers running back legends like Leo Lewis, Charles Roberts, Willard Reaves, Jim Washington and Gerry James.

And what Harris did this season – capturing his second-straight CFL rushing title while cementing himself among the franchise’s great ball carriers – comes in at #5 in our Year in Review series.

What’s even more remarkable is that Harris is enjoying the best years of his career in his 30’s, having turned 31 last April, and then cranking out a career-best 1,390 yards rushing while adding another 58 receptions for 451 yards and 11 touchdowns total.

When it was suggested after a win in Edmonton in October that he should be slowing down at age 31, not getting better, Harris grinned and added:

“Yeah… I’m getting better. Fine wine.”

Harris was the West Division’s nominee for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award, finishing just shy of Ottawa receiver Brad Sinopoli in the final voting. But it could be argued his 2018 season was just as dominant as his 2017 campaign, when he rushed for 1,035 yards and also set a CFL record for receptions by a running back with 105, all while chasing the elusive 1K-1K mark with 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season (he finished with 857 receiving).

Harris didn’t miss a game in ’18, posted five 100-yard rushing efforts – a sixth came in a superb performance in the West Semi-Final win over Saskatchewan – while averaging 5.8 yards per carry, just shy of the career-best 5.9 yards he averaged in 2012.

He became the first Bombers running back to win consecutive rushing titles since Charles Roberts in 2005-06. And he did it in style in the regular season finale in Edmonton, rushing twice for 35 yards – the second a 31-yard romp through the Eskimo defence – before he exited the game to stay healthy for the postseason.

As he left the game, he turned to salute the offensive line.

“It’s great to have a coaching staff and an organization that wants to help you achieve your goals and give me an opportunity like they did today to get some runs in,” said Harris that day in Edmonton.

“Those guys (the O-line) work so hard. They’re such a cohesive unit and they care about the run game so much. They care about my success and just the overall success of the rushing totals, as well. A lot of times the running back gets all the shine and all the praise, but those five guys up front deserve every bit of it as well. Those five-six guys that I’ve been playing with all year are warriors. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.

“At this point in my career, it’s a great achievement. It’s something you definitely take a lot of pride in. I’m just enjoying it right now.”

In each of the three years Harris has worn Bomber colours, he has been named the team’s Most Outstanding Canadian, captured two rushing titles, been named a CFL All-Star, was the 2017 CFL Most Outstanding Canadian, and moved past Ken Ploen into 10th place on the club’s all-time rushing yardage list.

And there’s a very real sense he’s got a lot more quality football left in him.

“It’s crazy, I was thinking about the touches and the carries I took this year because those are usually the hardest on the body, but I feel great right now,” said Harris after the season. “No lingering injuries, nothing that was serious. I could be ready to jump into the full swing of training right now. I feel great at this point. Everyone keeps talking about my age, but I feel great.”

This is the sixth installment of a series recapping the Top 10 Bomber stories of 2018.

Next: #4 – Bighill/Bryant Honoured