Henry Burris had the finest passing statistics of his CFL career last year. Now, at 38, he is on pace to finish 2013 with even more-impressive numbers, while also reaching a prominent milestone.
In 2012, during his first season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the veteran quarterback threw for 5,367 yards and 43 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 104.4, all career-highs. Currently, he’s the league’s leading passer with 3,181 yards and is on pace to toss more than 5,600.
At 49,783 yards, Burris is 217 away from becoming just the fifth quarterback in CFL history to throw for 50,000 in a career. It’s a mark only Anthony Calvillo, Damon Allen, Danny McManus and Ron Lancaster have surpassed.
The congenial quarterback said he had no idea he was nearing that benchmark and joked it makes him feel old. But it’s fitting Burris could reach 50,000 yards on Friday, versus the Stampeders in Calgary, where he played nine of his 14 CFL seasons and earned two Grey Cup rings. Today, he still runs a foundation there, owns a restaurant and lives some of the year in his family home with wife, Nicole, and their two young sons.
“I’ll always be able to come back and play in a place where my boys remember watching daddy playing for the red and white,” Burris said. “I’m not going to make this game bigger than it is, but [the Stamps] are 8-2 and have been playing great football at home.
“But right now, we’re playing good football as well, and in order for us to take that next step and become an elite team – a team that can make some noise down the stretch – we have to win games like this.”
Despite posting such exceptional numbers last year, the Ticats finished 6-12 and didn’t make the playoffs.
This season, they started sluggishly, losing four of their first five games. But last week’s victory was significant – a 37-29 triumph over the B.C. Lions, after which the Tabbies improved to 5-5 kept pace with the Toronto Argonauts (6-4), who hold first place in the East. Burris was named the league’s offensive player of the week for completing 25 of 35 attempts for 375 yards and four touchdowns.
He has now thrown for more than 300 yards in four consecutive games, and seven of 10 contests so far this year.
Many who have played with or against Burris say they expect to see the venerable pivot land in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
“He’s a Hall of Famer, no doubt,” said Dave Dickenson, the former CFL quarterback who is now the Stampeders offensive co-ordinator. “For me, the Hall of Fame is for someone who was the best player at their position for an extended time. … And [Burris] is not just the best player [at his position]; he’s the best in the league.
“He never gets hurt. He’s the most durable guy in the whole league at 38.”
Calgary middle linebacker Juwan Simpson watched Burris in action last weekend, and once again came away impressed.
“I was just saying [Tuesday], ‘Hey, does Henry not know he’s getting older?’” Simpson said. “He still moves like he’s a young guy and he’s really a smart player. He knows when to take a big hit, when not to. One thing I think people don’t know is how hard he trains. If you see him in the off-season, you think, ‘Wow, this is not a quarterback.’”
Burris credits Tiger-Cats head coach Kent Austin’s offence for allowing him to be unpredictable and hit any number of different targets. Winning four of their past five games, Burris senses the tide is turning.
“It’s comfort and chemistry, we’re getting better every week,” he said. “A finger is on the switch and there is a lot of pressure on it. We’re close to really blowing this thing open as an offence.”
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