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June 12, 2019

“I still feel like I have something to prove.” | Harris hungrier than ever

He is an all-star, the reigning back-to-back rushing champ, the West Division’s top Canuck in 2018 and less than two years removed from winning the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Canadian.

So, no one would hold it against Andrew Harris in the least bit if he opted to put his feet up, light up a celebratory stogie and then bask in all the glory and accolades that have come his way over the last two-three seasons.

He’s earned it, after all.

But it was during a conversation with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back after practice Wednesday that the future hall of famer offered up the completely opposite perspective.

Now 32, Harris remains just as hungry and just as committed to prove all the doubters and cynics wrong.

Yes, that trademark inferno still rages in his belly.

Andrew Harris (33) and Nic Demski (10) at Bombers practice June 11, 2019. Photo: David Lipnowski

“Nothing’s really changed,” began Harris in a chat with bluebombers.com. “I still look at myself as that underdog, that afterthought. I still feel like I have something to prove. It’s just something embedded in me that’s not going to change. I’ve still got that chip on my shoulder that I’ve always had.

“As much success as I’ve had, there have always been naysayers and there always will be. That’s just part of this business. A lot of people take that negatively. I take it and turn it into a positive thing for me. It just works for me. Even if everything is all roses I’m still going to have that chip on my shoulder and think I can still do more and be better.”

Harris readily admits he has thought of chasing a third straight rushing title – he would be the first back in the CFL to do so since Calgary’s Jon Cornish from 2012-14 – but, “my biggest goal is to win a Grey Cup and to do it in Winnipeg is absolutely No. 1 on my mind. That’s the motivator for me: winning a championship and bringing the cup back home.”

There are some factors that could impact that pursuit of another crown. The offensive line will feature new faces with Matthias Goossen and Sukh Chungh having moved on, and the new options available in the receiving corps might mean Harris isn’t the workhorse he’s been over the last three years, when he’s averaged 208 carries and a whopping 77 receptions.

There’s also this: as fit and dedicated as he is, there’s the long-standing notion that running backs in their 30s often have too much wear and tear on their treads.

Andrew Harris (33) at Bombers practice June 11, 2019. Photo: David Lipnowski

“Yeah,” said Harris with a sly grin, “they’ve been saying that for a while now. Even when I signed here (in 2016) I saw tons of stuff… ‘That’s a bad pick-up. That’s a waste of money.’

“Look, I still feel great. I feel like I can still do great things and contribute, and until I don’t feel that anymore I’m always going to come to camp ready to perform and compete for that starting job.”

Life did offer some changes for Harris this offseason. He got married. And he began working to set himself up for life after football, establishing a vehicle leasing company with teammate Chad Rempel – Long Run Leasing – and is also now working in sales for Atlas Engineering Products, a company owned by Hadi Abassi, the owner of the Vancouver Island Raiders junior team that Harris played for before turning pro.

But again, don’t let any of this lead to the assumption Harris backed off in any of his training. He cranked out a couple of long runs at Wednesday’s practice, for example, in which he ran the distance, long after the play had been whistled dead.

The fire still burns. And with age comes a certain perspective and a big-picture take on what really matters, both on and off the field.

“Back in 2009 I was on the practice roster (with the B.C. Lions), and then I was playing in 2010 as a returner,” Harris recalled. “Going into ’11, it was my first year as a starter and to win the Grey Cup that year… you don’t realize at the time how hard it is to do that.

“Everything just goes so fast. Now fast forward seven-eight years and having been in the game since then, you really appreciate more the effort, the work and the grind and how tough it is to do these things.

“Just think about last year and how crushed I was (after the West Final). It was because I thought this group was so special. I appreciate it a lot more now and that’s why I’m excited about this year.”