March 28, 2024

Roughriders’ Trevor Harris is geared up for 2024

Trevor Harris is fanning the excitement for the 2024 season.

“I think the fans can get really excited about our team this year and can really get behind it,” the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ marquee quarterback said on Thursday.

“Like I said in December, this is a situation where we’ve had a rough couple of seasons here. I was here for one of them — well, I guess I played in the first five games — and, seeing that, it was really painful for me because of how amazing our fans are.

“I want them to wear Roughrider gear and be stinkin’ proud of it. No matter what province they’re in, I want them to be able to wear that Roughrider green and white and be able to walk around town and know that their team is out there doing things on the field.

“I took it very personally last year, with what has happened, and it has been kind of a personal mindset this off-season in terms of, ‘We’re not going to let that happen again.’ ”

Harris, who signed with Saskatchewan as a free agent on Feb. 14, 2023, helped the Roughriders win three of his first four games as the CFL team’s starting quarterback.

In the fourth quarter of his fifth game as a Roughrider, he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

That was a crushing blow not only to Harris, but also to the Roughriders in general. In a quarterback-driven sport, it is a tall order for any team to withstand an injury to its signal-caller. That was evidenced by the fact that the Roughriders finished with a 6-12 record for the second season in succession.

The fate of the 2023 Roughriders gnawed at Harris, who had this to say in a post-season interview with “Our fan base is the best in the league, so we need our product to match our fan base.”

He expounded on that statement during Thursday’s Zoom interview with reporters.

“It has never been my main motivation to play for the fans,” Harris said. “My main motivation is to play for Christ. It has always been about making sure that I’m really trying to do that.

“And my teammates … when my alarm clock goes off in the morning, that’s why I don’t snooze. I get up thinking about them. I want to put in the work. I’m ready to go to war with them, per se.

“But just seeing what the fan base has gone through these last few years, they’re part of our family. We’re a community-owned team, so we’re owned by the fans and we’re owned by the community. And if you’ve got unhappy ownership, that’s not a good thing.

“I want them to be stinkin’ proud of their team. I want them to be happy with the product on the field, as well as the product off the field, with the way we treat our fans.

“I think we do a tremendous job in the community, but us getting the results for them on the field is about focusing on the process. So, for me, it’s about just staying in the process and being engulfed in the process of what we’re trying to do.

“We’re just hammering our values, pounding the stone every day, to make sure that we’re putting in those deposits every day so that they do pay off. If we can do that, then I think the results will speak for themselves.”

Harris is upbeat about the results during the off-season, given the wealth of talent and expertise the Roughriders have added.

The Green and White, under newly appointed Head Coach Corey Mace, acquired a number of key players via free agency.

On the offensive side, for example, Harris looks forward to working with linemen Jermarcus Hardrick and Ryan Sceviour and running back A.J. Ouellette — three proven veterans who joined the team in February.

In advance of the free-agency period, the Roughriders re-signed receiver Shawn Bane Jr., who is coming off a 93-catch, 1,104-yard breakout season.

As well, one of Mace’s first moves was to hire Marc Mueller as the Offensive Co-ordinator. The arrival of Mace has also been a selling point in contract negotiations that have been conducted by Jeremy O’Day (Vice-President of Football Operations and General Manager) and Kyle Carson (Assistant GM).

“I think they’ve done a tremendous job,” Harris said. “I think they’ve stepped up and made a stance to say that, ‘We’re going all-in this year. This is the year that we’re really going to do this thing.’

“We’ve hired Corey Mace and we’ve brought in an excellent Offensive Co-ordinator. Coach Mueller has been wildly impressive to me in meetings. Him and I have worked pretty well together thus far and it has been really fun getting to know him and getting to know his humility, how well he listens, and how intelligent he is as well. He’s a hyper-intelligent guy.

“I’m really excited for the season. I think the organization, with J.O. and Kyle Carson, has done a tremendous job in terms of getting this team prepared and getting all the pieces together.

“It’s kind of funny. You think about the pieces the Riders have added this off-season. I’ve really been thinking about it and I think we’re technically adding myself as well.”

After all, Harris didn’t make the one-third mark of last season. He suffered a tibial plateau fracture of his right knee with 10 minutes left in a July 15 home game against the Calgary Stampeders.

“I don’t remember any injuries from last year,” he deadpanned, referencing the fact that rehabilitation hasn’t been a consideration in his workouts for several months now.

“It has just been one of those things where I’m doing maintenance now. I think I could have played in a game (late last season) — probably the West final, but I would have been about 70 per cent. I don’t know if I could have helped the team.

“Right around Christmas time, around the five-month mark (since the injury), I was comfortable playing a game and being able to do everything I needed to do movement-wise, strength-wise, quickness-wise, as far as being comfortable taking hits, and those sorts of things.

“I was really pleased with that, because that gave me an entire off-season of being able to work on things that I wanted to work on — such as strengthening my strengths — and of being able to hit an off-season full-speed, as opposed to thinking about the injury up until the eight-month mark.

“The time frame they gave me was eight to 10 months, which is right around right now. I’m really thankful it was that quick and a lot of it has to do with (Head Athletic Therapist) Greg Mayer and the training staff there as well as the ARP training protocols.

“I’ve been working with the doctors at ARP. The ARP trainer, Jake Kozens, has become a really close friend of mine. I’ve been working with him five or six days a week. It has been an absolute game-changer for me.”

Harris will continue working at that pace until leaving his home in the Columbus, Ohio area and embarking for Saskatchewan. Main training camp is to begin on May 12 in Saskatoon.

“I’m getting really excited now that camp is around the corner,” he said. “We’re kind of breaking that one-month mark before I head up, so it’s really getting real now.

“Once you start counting down the days and you’re under a month before you leave, it’s like, ‘We’re here. Here we go.’ ”