Henry Burris, a name that everyone should know by now. The 3-time Grey Cup champion and 2-time CFL MOP has been nothing but an amazing athlete, person and leader here in Ottawa.
Burris spent 3 seasons with Ottawa before he retired in 2016. Before leaving the team as a champion, Henry turned the 2-16 expansion team into the 8-9-1 Grey Cup champions! Although it seems for us that he only did the dirty work here in Ottawa, Burris helped the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders, Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to go with his last dance here in Ottawa.
The now retired Quarterback who is looked at as a hall of famer is in the record books with over 63,000 yards passing, 376 passing touchdowns to go with 5,757 yards and 68 rushing touchdowns. With 277 games played, he is a part of CFL history, being third in both CFL career passing yards and touchdowns!
This afternoon, I was able to get a quick interview in with the all-star Quarterback about his success and other players and coaches success!
Q: In your time here in Ottawa, you helped turn around the organization back in 2015… What was different about the 2-16 season compare to the 2015,16 grey cup years?
A: “Just the transition from having a lot of young guys, in 2014 we had a lot of guys looking for opportunities and moving on with our careers, and there were also lots of young guys trying to make a name for their self in professional football. In the 2015-16 seasons, it was different, we now had veteran players with Sir Vincent Rogers, Chris Williams and Ernest Jackson. The talent that we brought in went with the young guys who were then experienced through all the tough times in 2014 and became veteran players with a journey. With it all, the expansion year in 2014, we were given a lot of young guys, and for 2015-16 where we won it all, we had veteran players who’d teach the younger guys. The leadership on the 2015 team was phenomenal and that is what was different about the season, leadership.“
Q: In your career in the CFL you turned around 4 different franchises, which turn around do you feel was your best?
A: ” Here (Ottawa) was hands down the best! It was new in every way, we had to create a brand new model and not only promise something, but go out and do it as well. The other organizations have been around for a long time and had their benefits, but the fact that this (Ottawa) came from scratch is nuts! When we had to get fans out, many people reflected on the past. To see us put this all together and give the city their first Grey Cup in 40 some years was just an awesome experience.”
Q: Throughout your career, you had the chance to have played with many great athletes that are looked at as all-time greats… who is a player that has stood out, but never got enough credit for what they’ve done?
A: ” For me, it’s not just one player but multiple… the offensive line on every team! To me, my best friends are always the offensive linemen. From Jon Gott, Sir Vincent Rogers, I mean all the big guys I’ve played with are not the guys in front of camera’s, and doing interviews. Those are the guys behind the scenes that a lot of people may not talk about but at the end of the day and guys are highlighted for their jobs like the Brad Sinopoli’s, the Joffrey Reynolds and the Ken-Yon Rambo’s that I’ve played with, if it hadn’t been for the guys up front, giving me time to throw, none of this would be possible. So, that’s why I always tip my hat off to the offensive-line, and whenever they were hungry or thirsty, you’d always see me out at restaurants and at different places making sure they had smiles on their faces and telling them thank you in our own way.”
Q: In your first time with Calgary, you were a part of the “next man up” system… now REDBLACKS QB Dominique Davis is in the same position, what do you have to say about Davis’ transition to QB1?
A: “I’m loving it, early on, there’s always ups and downs. He’s got to ride that roller coaseter and learn throughout every step. This is what it’s all about, there has never really been a quarterback that stepped on the field and had immediate success. I mean Tom Brady is a different story, with the team he had built around him, that made it easy for Belichick to say ‘Just don’t make a mistake”, because it was possible for him not to. Not everyone gets to experience the luxury of having a team built around you like they had for Brady, so Dom has done a great job with his situation. Dominique is new to it, but there are also more guys around him new to it,including the play caller. I mean, he’s the pedal stool here in Ottawa’s organization, everything revolves around him and he’s got to use his heart to make sure the boat floats.”
Q: Dom is experiencing all of this early on in his career.. what advice would you give him, entering the next years as a starting quarterback?
A: “Don’t change who you are. The work always continues, and the fact that you’re going to learn (I learned in my 20th season, you always will learn something) , never have the big head, always stay young, keep your ears open and use your experience to be able to dilute whats good and whats not good for you. Be the filter in the locker room, because the guys in there are the reason why you are where you are now. Be the leader, not the dictator, but be a leader.”
Q: Early in your CFL career, you were given nickname Smiling Hank… Was there ever a time in your career that didn’t put a smile on your face and made you want to quit?
A: “Never wanted to quit, never. I’ve had people tell me that I smile too much! That must be why some people don’t like me, because I’m too happy! But what else could I do, the smile is a part of me, it is me! When I’m on the field, I’m competing, so if there’s a smile on my face there’s a good reason for it! I’ve always been Smiling Hank, and nothing will change that!”
Q: Throughout your career, you’ve played under many great coaches. In the time spent in Ottawa,you played under rookie head coach Rick Campbell. What do you have to say about the success he’s had early in his coaching career?
A: “It’s something I expected, before my Ottawa days, I was lucky to play with him as a coach in Calgary and I even played against him when he was with Edmonton. Playing with him in Calgary and Ottawa, knowing him personally gave me the knowing that he had the “steady eddy”, cool and calm personality. When I got to now him, I knew he was going to be a fabulous head coach and I was happy to have played under him in a Grey Cup run. He hasn’t changed, even after his success, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a few more great years here in Ottawa!”
Q: You had a very long playing career here in the CFL, and there is no doubt that you love the game of football… Have you considered coming back as a coach?
A: “No, I’d be single if I did. I’d rather spend as much time with my family as I would as a coach. As a player, I experienced first hand how much time goes into being a coach. It takes just as long to be a coach as it does to be a player. It would be a fun experience with the game of football, but I’ve got enough running around to do for my family!”