Andrew Harris was supposed to be in decline.
He’s 34, coming off a cancelled season, and spent the first three games of the 2021 campaign on the sideline with a calf injury.
But yet, Harris continues to take Father Time into the later rounds as the Blue Bombers star running back from Winnipeg has been brilliant since returning to the lineup.
The passing game wasn’t at its best in Friday’s 30-3 beatdown at IG Field over the Edmonton Elks, but Harris more than made up for that with 150 yards rushing on 24 carries with a pair of touchdowns. Harris, who was easily the best offensive player on the field on the night, also made a catch for 24 yards.
"He’s unbelievable. I love him as a guy on our team," head coach Mike O’Shea told reporters after Tuesday’s closed practice.
"He brings a lot more to the team than just rushing yards. His protection is unbelievable, the attitude he carries into the huddle and the approach to games, it’s not just all rushing yards. He’s a terrific guy to have on the team and I said it before, I love the guy. He’s awesome."
In six games, Harris has been handed the ball 110 times for a total of 584 yards on the ground and a 5.3 yards per carry average. Even with his long absence, Harris is in the running for the league’s rushing title as Montreal’s William Stanback currently sits at the top with 677 rushing yards in seven games. Harris is in third place as Edmonton’s James Wilder, who has scampered for 631 yards in eight games of work, is in second.
Harris does, however, lead all running backs in rushing yards per game average (97.3).
"I attack it week by week. That’s not going to change. If at the end of the year I lead the league in rushing then so be it," Harris said.
"But I’m not looking too far ahead... At the end of the day, if I’m in that conversation or if that’s a possibility, then that’d be exciting. I’ll be happy with that and I know the o-line and the team will be as well because they take a lot of pride in that as well. But for myself and them, we’re just focused on the Edmonton Elks this week and being the most productive we can be in this game coming up."
Harris has led the league in rushing for the past three seasons and a big reason for that, and for the season he’s currently having, are the guys blocking for him. They’ve also kept quarterback Zach Collaros clean as Edmonton failed to sack Winnipeg’s pivot on Friday.
"I think it’s their attitude and their brotherhood. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group on any team, whether it’s o-line, DBs, or receivers, that are as close as those guys are. They hang out together a lot, eat together a lot, and they really care about each other," Harris said.
"As a running back, I really feel a part of that group and they really make me feel welcome into that group being one of the protector’s for the quarterback. It’s definitely a group effort and everyone really cares and has compassion for each other and that’s what breeds success. When you actually really care about the guy next to you and his success and the group’s success, ultimately, your team is going to be that much more productive."
The rushing crown isn’t the only thing in striking distance for Harris as he’s getting closer and closer to 10,000 career rushing yards. The 11-year veteran enters Friday’s tilt in Edmonton with 9,622 career rushing yards. Harris is in sixth place on the CFL’s all-time list and needs to surpass Bombers legend Charles Roberts (10,285) to crack the top five.
"That’s a massive milestone. That would put me in the top five and definitely something that’s a huge accomplishment for any player, let alone a Canadian," Harris said.
"I say this all the time but it’s a tribute to my teammates, coaches, and a lot of hard work and dedication. I definitely wouldn’t have thought I’d be here when I first started taking a ferry to B.C. Lions practice."
But these milestones aren’t at the top of Harris’s mind. Despite being 8-1, the Bombers offence feels they have more to give.
"If you look at the numbers, (leading the league in rushing) is a possibility, but I’m not really focused on that," said Harris. "That’s not my focus. It’s coming in week in and week out and helping the team be productive... I don’t think we’ve played our best football yet and it’s encouraging for us because we still have something to strive for."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.