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The move to the Montreal Alouettes has made football fun again for Trevor Harris and taught the veteran quarterback the value of living in the moment.
Harris began the year with the Edmonton Elks but was traded to Montreal on Oct. 17. And although questions exist regarding his long-term future, Harris said the change of scenery has helped rejuvenate him.
"It was a tough year for me in Edmonton," Harris told reporters during a videoconference Wednesday. "I wasn't having a lot of fun but I'm having so much fun here that it's taught me to just be right here.
"I don't want to live in the future, in the past, none of that because I'm having fun playing football. When you're not having fun playing football a lot of times you can struggle to do that because you think about past failures or future anxieties. I've learned to be present and it's been such a great teacher this year."
Harris, 35, will make a fourth straight start Sunday when Montreal visits the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East Division semifinal. The six-foot-three, 212-pound Harris has completed 52-of-76 passes (68.4 per cent) for 580 yards with seven TDs and two interceptions in his previous three starts.
Edmonton was languishing with a 2-7 record when it sent Harris to Montreal, which had lost starter Vernon Adams Jr. (shoulder). Harris had completed 135-of-192 passes (70.3 per cent) for 1,568 yards with six TDs and five interceptions with the Elks.
But it's unclear how long Harris will remain in Montreal. He reportedly has a year remaining on his current contract that’s also said to include a $300,000 roster bonus due Feb. 1, 2022.
Harris's departure from Alberta resolved little for the Elks (3-11), who fired president/CEO Chris Presson, GM Brock Sunderland and head coach Jaime Elizondo on Monday,
"Everybody has had a unique journey to get to this point," Harris said. "The twists and turns of our road are what form us into who we are.
"I've never been motivated by spite. I've always been motivated by love."
Montreal and Hamilton split their season series 1-1, with each team winning on the road. Adams Jr. was under centre for the Alouettes in two contests but Harris downplayed any suggestion his presence might give the visitors an advantage.
"At this point in the season, we may see a few different wrinkles but we are who we are and they are who they are," he said. "They've seen me on film, I've seen them on film.
"I'm sure they'll want to do certain things against me as some defences do . . . it's going to be a fun tilt. We like where we're at."
And it's not like Harris is coming in as an unknown entity. He has appeared in 143 career CFL games and amassed over 24,000 passing yards with 134 TDs while earning Grey Cup rings with Toronto (2012) and Ottawa (2016).
In 2018, Harris completed 29-of-32 passes for 367 yards and a CFL playoff-record six TD passes in leading Ottawa past Hamilton 46-27 in the East Division final. But in the Grey Cup game, the Calgary Stampeders intercepted Harris three times en route to a 27-16 win in Edmonton.
"The difference is Trevor is a champion, he's seen it, he's been there, he's done it," said Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer. "I think the one thing that's consistent with Montreal is they're going to run the ball, and not just run it but they run it effectively.
"They're in the playoffs for a reason to . . . they're a good team. But so are we."
This season, Harris has completed 199-of-283 passes (70.3 per cent) for 2,271 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Adams Jr. was 33-of-57 passing for 380 yards with three TDs and three interceptions versus Hamilton. But he also ran 11 times for 46 yards.
By comparison, Harris has run just five times with Montreal for 43 yards. Then again, with CFL rushing leader William Stanback (1,176 yards) in the backfield, the Alouettes don't always need their quarterback to run.
"Just because they've seen Trevor over the years . . ., they haven't seen him in this offence, which I think is pretty cool," said Alouettes head coach Khari Jones, himself a former CFL quarterback. "He is playing really good football right now and feeling confident.
"I hope it gives us an advantage. I hope they don't know this version of Trevor and he can just go out there and play his game."
Jones admits he calls a game somewhat differently with Harris under centre than he would with Adams Jr. However, Jones said Harris has settled into Montreal's offence quite nicely.
"Day after day I feel comfortable with what he can do and how he sees the game," Jones said. "He's a really smart guy, he just knows the game and his experience shows.
"He's making moves out there that I've been really impressed with. It's nice to see that come so quickly in the process."
Harris said while he's become much more comfortable within Montreal's offence, there's always work to do in terms of getting on the same page as his receivers. That unit includes Eugene Lewis (62 catches, 964 yards, nine TDs) and Jake Wieneke (56 catches, 898 yards, league-high 11 TDs).
"The rate at which we've accelerated that (learning) curve and got to being close to being on the same page is really uncanny," Harris said. "I think we're in a good spot mentally, physically and emotionally as well.
"I don't think there are any excuses at this point. I've been here a month and there's no hesitation when I'm out there."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2021.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press