I will never forget the second time I watched Andrew Harris play football. Don’t really remember the first time. My head got slammed into that concrete crease thing at Caledonia Park. Got a little fuzzy after that.
It was 2009. I was an 18-year-old rookie for the Chilliwack (now Valley) Huskers. The juggernaut Vancouver Island Raiders had jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. I can’t remember the exact stats, but Harris already had two touchdowns on maybe ten carries at this point in the game. The Raiders were on our 30-yard line when Harris took a handoff, broke about four tackles, and was forced out of bounds by three Husker defenders after a 20 yard gain. The end of the play happened right by our bench. As he got up, Harris started talking to one of our guys.
‘You guys are never going to get me down if you keep tackling me up high. You’ve got to go low! Tackle me in the thighs, wrap me up.’
On the very next play, as if on cue, our middle linebacker did exactly that. Wrapped up #33 around the thighs and brought him down.
‘I told you!’ Harris yelled, ‘I told you that’s how you get me down. Nice work!’
He was telling us how to beat him. In the middle of a game. On our own field. Not in a malicious way though, he wasn’t chirping. It was almost as if he was bored and wanted more of a challenge. That’s when I first realized that Andrew Harris was going to be pretty good at this whole football thing.
The Legend Grows
If you paid attention to the British Columbia Football Conference in the late 2000s, you knew that Harris was going to be a contributor in the CFL. But many people from outside the province likely saw him as a cinderella story; A Manitoba kid playing junior football in British Columbia. Sure, he set many CJFL records and lead the Raiders to multiple National Championships. But some football experts couldn’t get past the fact that he had zero experience playing University ball. Everyone who played against him during his time in the BCFC knew that wasn’t going to be a problem for him.
It wasn’t the video game like stats that players talked about back then. It were these mythical tales that floated around the league during his time in the BCFC. Everyone had an Andrew Harris story. Some ended up being true, like Harris taking the ferry to Vancouver during the week so he could practice with the Lions during his last year with the Raiders. Most, however, were just made up stories blown way out of proportion. Tales from ‘a friend of a friend’ that ‘knew someone’.
More than a few times we’d hear a story that he turned down the University of Washington because they wanted him to play safety (false). Someone who had ‘connections’ in Manitoba said he went to B.C. because in his ‘contract’ he was guaranteed 25 touches a game (obviously false). My personal favourite was how he got free stuff from businesses in Nanaimo because he was so good. He was like a myth. Every week there was something new.
The best part about these Andrew Harris mythical tales? They were all positive. He was so well liked in the league. He was just one of the boys. Just another guy playing ball, chasing the dream. The official stats would get released on the BCFC’s website on Tuesday afternoons, and we would check the ridiculous numbers Harris put up that week before looking at our own. My brother played against Harris while he was with Chilliwack in 2007 and 2008. He still talks about the one time they held him to under 100 yards in a playoff game, and the one time they upset the Raiders at home for one of their three wins on the season. They are his go-to glory day football stories.
When Vancouver Island played the Saskatoon Hilltops in the National Championship semi-final, Gordie Howe Bowl (where the game was played) was iffy at best. Saskatoon high school and Kinsmen football leagues both use that field and by the end of every season, the grass between the 20-yard lines is basically non-existent. The frigid Saskatchewan fall weather makes the ground hard as rock. It’s like playing football on a parking lot. Harris ran for 370 yards and three touchdowns.
The very next week in the Canadian Bowl, he ran for a record 410 yards. In two playoff games, against two conference championship teams, Harris ran for 780 yards. He put on a show. Just like he did every Saturday for five years in the BCFC.
Winnipeg’s front office is hoping that they’ve found the next Andrew Harris in Brady Oliveira. The local product lit it up on a much larger scale at North Dakota and has a very similar style to Harris. But Harris is like the CFL’s Frank Gore. Everyone thinks he’s going to ‘break down’ soon, but it hasn’t happened yet. Some fans like to worry about age when it comes to running backs, but the only people who should worry are the eight defensive coordinators who have to game plan against him.
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) November 3, 2018
Just remember, wrap him up around legs.
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