May 13, 2024

Rob Vanstone: Trevor Harris, A.J. Ouellette and a 23-hour road trip to Saskatchewan

SASKATOON — En route to training camp, Trevor Harris and A.J. Ouellette collaborated on what should be the first of many long drives.

Together, they made the long trek from Ohio to Saskatchewan in advance of Coors Light Roughriders Training Camp, which began on Sunday at Griffiths Stadium.

“We got to know each other, that was for sure,” Ouellette said with a laugh. “Twenty-three hours talking football, talking God, talking family … a little bit of everything.

“I’m already good friends with Trev. I’ll put him down as a lifelong best friend right now.”

The two Ohioans became teammates on Feb. 13, when Ouellette — a CFL East Division All-Star running back with the Toronto Argonauts last season — signed with Saskatchewan as a free agent.

One year earlier, less a day, Harris had joined the Roughriders via free agency.

Saskatchewan’s marquee quarterback resides in the Columbus area. Ouellette is from Covington.

“I’ve been working with Trevor for a bit now,’’ Ouellette noted. “He lives about an hour away from me.

“I love his leadership. I love how he takes ownership of the huddle. There’s no one talking when he’s talking. He’s the one with the play, so everyone has to lock in so we get it.

“And then he’s just a goofball when he needs to be, having fun and talking about movies and stuff. He’s definitely a quarterback who you want.”

And a driver of comparable calibre.

“That dude’s a robot!” Ouellette marvelled. “I said, ‘Do you want me to drive?’ No.

“Twenty-hours in, he was just locked in. He drove the whole way. I just sat — co-pilot. I enjoyed it.”

So did Harris.

“It was awesome,” the Roughriders’ signal-caller said. “There were lots of talks about everything from conspiracy theories to football to education and what we think about the schooling system.

“We had 23½ hours and we were listening to some old-school country. We found out that were both old-school country fans. We talked about Jesus quite a bit, so it was a great drive.”

For part of the excursion, Ouellette was in charge of ensuring that the in-car listening fare was as captivating as possible.

“We went podcast … we went to some music … we just basically talked,” he said. “We studied the playbook until I got tired of him beating me on all the quizzes and stuff.”

The path from Ohio to Saskatchewan included Maple Grove, Minn., where Harris and Ouellette visited with a member of the 2023 Roughriders’ receiving corps.

“We stopped at Jake Wieneke’s house, about halfway,” Ouellette said. “We spent the night there and went out to eat with him.

“We had a good night with Jake and just enjoyed being guys. We played football in the backyard.”

Harris and Ouellette were actually introduced on Oct. 21 at Mosaic Stadium.

“It’s crazy, because the first time I talked to Trevor — I hope he brings up this story — was when the Argos were in Regina last year,” Ouellette recalled.

“He came up to me before the game — he wasn’t playing — and he said, ‘Hey, man, I don’t want to interrupt your pre-game, but you’re my son’s favourite player.’

“He walked away and I looked at Andrew (Harris) and said, ‘Is that Trevor?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ That was the first interaction I had with him.

“In the off-season, he called me and said I was the guy that he wanted as his running back. We talked for about three, four hours the first time he called me.

“We were clicking. Everything that I value in life, he values in life. I was like, ‘That’s the quarterback I need to be with. That’s the brother I need to have beside me.’

“I went to his house and ran some routes for him during the off-season and we already knew each other before the drive, so it made it pretty easy.”

There was only one snag — relating to Ouellette’s trademark Thor hammer, which comes complete with sound effects.

“It was in the backseat … and it actually started going off about 45 minutes into the trip,” Harris noted. “It was making noise for about three hours.”

Which, in a different sense, is what Harris, Ouellette and their teammates plan to do every game.