Henry Burris felt the sting of tears last week when his four-year-old son Barron said he didn’t know what the Grey Cup was. Now he’s hell bent on getting the kid a ring on Sunday.
The 38-year-old veteran Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback has two Grey Cup rings in his collection so far, both with the Calgary Stampeders. He earned one as a backup in 1998, and the other as the game’s MVP in 2008, with his wife Nicole and then two-year-old son Armand there watching.
After, the Stamps often began starting Drew Tate over Burris, then traded him to Hamilton, leaving the long-time Stamp with a “sour taste.” After finishing his first season with the Ticats out of the playoffs, he has helped deliver the 2013 team to the Grey Cup versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and recognizes this game will help write his legacy.
“It seemed like all the demons of the past four years, what an organization threw at me, what all the people have thrown at me, I was just letting those go, pounding them into the ground,” said Burris of his emotional fist-pounding reaction after winning the East final last week. “I guess that was me burying the body bag.”
Burris’s wife was packing up the family for their Friday trip to Regina. Young Barron has been acting out football games with anything he can find in CFL team colours – Lego, Halloween candy, toy cars. He has even asked his mom to sing O Canada to kick off the games.
“The Calgary thing was crushing, even though we know it’s a business and he’s not the only guy to play in one city for a long time and believe he would someday retire there, only to suddenly find himself looking for a job,” said Nicole Burris by phone from Calgary. “But now, I see full-on joy in him. He’s truly as happy in his football life as I’ve seen him in a very long time.”
The family has lived together during the summers, but his wife and boys return to their Calgary home during the school year.
The time apart from family and the sacrifices have crystalized for the quarterback through the playoff journey to this Grey Cup. He reflected in the moments after the East final of working out four hours a day in the offseason five days a week while eating 5,000-6,000 calories each day. The thrill of winning has never faded.
“To be able to take multiple organizations and be part of winning Grey Cup championships an integral part of the group that got it done on the field, that would mean a lot,” said Burris. “I look at Anthony Calvillo, who has won multiple Grey Cups; Damon Allen – he won four Grey Cups – with Toronto, Edmonton, B.C. Ricky Ray has won multiple Grey Cups, now I need to get that done.”
His teammates recognize the spark he has generated in Hamilton.
“It’s a tremendous validation for him to say he was the guy we brought in and now we’re here at the Grey Cup,” said long-time Ticats offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski. “To come somewhere new and establish himself the way he has is amazing.”
His wife flew to Toronto last week to see the game and met her emotional husband outside the locker room for what she described through laughter as “a hugging cry fest.” She remembers making him a photo album of his victorious 2008 season and hopes to make another this year, including a winning photo of him and his two sons.
“We see, the sacrifices have been worth it, he still really loves football and he knows those who love him no matter are always there,” said his wife. “He still has it in him – the drive to win – and to see it finally paying off for him is just awesome.”