OTTAWA — For the first time in his professional career, Trevor Harris won't have to look over his shoulder.
Long having to play in the shadow of decorated veterans like Henry Burris and Ricky Ray, Harris has the luxury of walking into Ottawa Redblacks training camp this year knowing he has the starting quarterback job.
Just don't call the Redblacks "his team."
"This is our team," corrected Harris. "I don't ever look at it as my team. We have a responsibility together to do everything we can to put the best product on the field and that's what we're going to do."
With Burris retiring, Harris has the opportunity to put his stamp on the defending Grey Cup champions who, as hosts of this year's championship, will be looking for a return appearance.
Unlike his predecessor whose personality was as big as his smile, Harris, who was signed by the Redblacks in 2016, is more reserved and prefers to let his play speak.
That's not to say he isn't excited for the opportunity.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a different feel because it is different, but at the same time I don't approach it any differently. I didn't treat my off-season any differently in terms of preparation.
"I'm obsessed with football and I just want to know how good I can get at football."
In 15 games last season the Waldo, Ohio, native was 242-for-330 passing for 3,301 yards and 16 touchdowns.
A football junkie by his own admission, the easygoing 30-year-old admits he watched a ton of NFL tape during the off-season and studied the likes of Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers.
It was an exciting off-season for Harris as he and his wife, Kalie, had their first child three months ago, Trenton James.
In addition to helping out on diaper duty Harris maintained his usual physical training and worked on the mental side of his game as he started combat brain training, which helps with anticipation, focus and decision-making.
While Ottawa loses a likely Hall of Famer in Burris, the Redblacks can take comfort in the fact Harris was exceptional when healthy last season. He came in for the injured Burris in the season opener and then dominated the league the next few weeks before being sidelined by knee and ankle injuries.
"I can honestly say since the last time when I got my knee hurt that I'm healthy," Harris said. "It's one of those things that last year I tried to convince myself a lot that I was healthy, but I really wasn't so it feels good to be able to say and mean it and know that my abilities aren't limited out here."
Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell has no doubt Harris's success last season will reap dividends for the team this year.
"Our team knows we can win games with him and he can play at a very high level. The other thing the guys like about Trevor is he's very steady and reliable and the guy that makes you feel like we got this, regardless of the circumstance."
Harris will also benefit from knowing that should he struggle at times he’ll likely be given the opportunity to work through things rather than find himself watching from the sidelines.
From the time he joined the CFL as a member of the Toronto Argonauts in 2012 Harris has always had a veteran QB in front of him and admits it wasn't always easy knowing any mistake could get you sidelined.
"I've kind of learned a lesson to not worry about it, because in Toronto if I struggled for a game then Ricky gets to play. It was the same thing here. If you struggle for half a game we have Henry Burris waiting and he’s pretty darn good so I think the temptation for a coach is to do that a little bit more, but at the same time that's not my responsibility to think about. It’s one of those things where you need to focus on what you need to focus on.”
In the three years Burris spent with the Redblacks he quickly became the face of the franchise. Harris has every intention of being involved, but will do it in his own fashion.
"Henry's a different animal and enjoys being out there, while I'm more of a private guy," said Harris with a laugh. "I'm a Christian guy and I'm going to try and do a lot of outreach in terms of my Christian faith."
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press