June 6, 2024

Rob Vanstone: Roughriders’ Trevor Harris plans to use “viciously” judiciously in 2024

Even though Trevor Harris plays a sport of aggression for a living, the word “vicious” would not seem to be descriptive of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ starting quarterback.

You cannot hope to meet a nicer, kinder person.

He is, however, “viciously motivated” as the Roughriders prepare to begin their 2024 regular season on Saturday against the host Edmonton Elks (2 p.m., TSN, CKRM).

“You don’t get opportunities every day,” the 38-year-old passer said on Thursday at Mosaic Stadium. “With the fact of what happened to me at my age and being afforded another opportunity, I’m just viciously motivated. It’s very much the feeling.

“It’s just full throttle, every day. Every day has a life of its own. There’s no difference between a meeting, a practice or a game. It’s all going to be with the same intention of getting better and trying to dominate.”

Harris got better, far faster than most patients, after suffering a season-ending knee injury on July 15 against the visiting Calgary Stampeders.

His recovery was so far ahead of schedule that he could have been available for the CFL’s 2023 West Division final, had the Roughriders advanced that far.

Tack on a full off-season of rehabilitation — which transitioned into regular training mode early in the winter — and Harris cannot wait to begin his 12th regular season of Canadian professional football.

“Make no mistake,” he declared. “I’m not just happy to be here.

“We’ve got bigger fish to fry than me just being back and playing. My mind has shifted and ‘getting back to play’ is long in the past.

“I’m very happy and super, super-grateful to be back but, to say that I’m just happy to be here, we’ve got some big fish to fry.”

Of course, you can’t land that big fish without a solid line and some solid catches.

As important as a quarterback is at any level of football, there must be complementary personnel for him and, by extension, the team to succeed.

In 1979, remember, future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Clements started seven games for a Saskatchewan side that was in Year 1 of a reconstruction project that would continue through, er, Year 11.

The offensive line, in particular, was being overhauled. As a consequence, there were growing pains — and, quite often, a very pained expression on the face of the quarterback.

Clements’ touchdown passes (two) were greatly outnumbered by the interceptions (11) before he was mercifully traded to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats near mid-season.

Upon arriving in Hamilton, Clements treated Tiger-Cats fans to the type of top-flight quarterbacking he had provided for the Ottawa Rough Riders. Later, as a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, he continued to perform at an exceptionally high level.

His final season was his best, at least statistically. At age 34, he threw for 4,686 yards and a career-high 35 touchdowns en route to being named the 1987 recipient of the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award.

Eleven years earlier, that honour had been bestowed upon Saskatchewan’s Ron Lancaster, barely a month after his 38th birthday.

Harris turned 38 a week ago. He is, and always has been, a superbly conditioned athlete. Age doesn’t matter.

If anything, longevity has its rewards, because experience is invaluable to a quarterback.

And, as time elapses and the yardsticks continue to move, milestones enter the equation.

Harris is only 116 yards shy of becoming only the 19th quarterback in CFL history to reach 30,000 in a career.

Most of the players above him on the all-time yardage list have been, or will be, enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

“It’s incredible,” Harris said of approaching 30,000 yards. “Praise Jesus that I’ve been able to play this amount of time and have the coaches and the teammates that I’ve had.

“To be close to something like that is not really something that I ever set out to do. Obviously, it’s really cool, but it’s really just a testament to the teammates and coaches I’ve had in the past.”

His current Head Coach, Corey Mace, was once an opposing defensive lineman, defensive line coach and defensive co-ordinator.

Now the Roughriders’ first-year chief strategist, Mace appreciates having Harris as an ally.

“He’s everything I thought he was, and is, to the core,” Mace said. “I think that speaks to the values that he was raised with and how he attacks everything and how he treats everybody.”

How does he treat everybody? Like gold.

How does he plan to attack everything this season? Well, come to think of it, “viciously” does seem to be the best description of all.