No looking back

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

When you get right down to it, Henry (Smilin' Hank) Burris is just like any other young adult who moves to the promised land, also known as Calgary.

Just because he came from Oklahoma (via Saskatchewan) and he's the starting quarterback for the Calgary Stampeders doesn't mean he isn't looking to tap into the area's booming economy.

Burris, now 31-years-old, hit it big when he signed a contract extension with the Stamps earlier this season that will keep him in Cowtown until 2009 and pay him several hundred thousand per year. As if that's not enough, Burris works downtown in the winter for Peak Energy.

Burris is a salesman for the company, which provides small equipment for the numerous oil rigs that are making Alberta rich.

"I'm preparing for after football," Burris said recently from the Alberta city. "There's a lot of great things happening in the city of Calgary. A lot of young professionals live here. I'm a part of the community now.

"We're moving up here permanently, so why not make myself a part of the community? ... I'm getting out in the workforce, because one day I will be doing it, so I just want to make sure the transition is a very smooth one."

Smilin' Hank knows a thing or two about hard work. He grew up near Spiro, Okla., where his parents, Henry Sr. and Caresse, owned a farm. They harvested soy beans and had plenty of cattle.

"When it comes to castration time and stamping them on the ears and things like that and also making sure you assist the birth and make sure there's no breach, I've been through it all," Burris said proudly.

So does that mean, Smilin' Hank, that your hand has actually been up a ... ?

"No, my father wouldn't let me actually put my hand up there, but he basically told me to hold on just so the cow wouldn't kick him," he said. "And I'd hold the tail every now and then, just so he wouldn't get any manure all over him."

That's still noble work, and Burris continues to bust his tail today to provide for his young family, which grew in April when his wife, Nicole, gave birth to their first child, Armand.

"Right now I'm leading kind of a four-tiered life, with family at home, football, then working downtown, and also I do community service all the time," he said. "It's kind of hard to divide up four areas of life and live them all at once."

That also leaves little time for his other passion -- screenwriting. Burris has a degree in communication and broadcasting from Temple University in Philadelphia, and he recently had begun working on a screenplay about polygamy, believe it or not.

"It was something that I always wanted to learn a little bit more about, because you always hear about people who believe in polygamy, and myself, I've always believed that there is that one out there for you in this world," he said.

"... I was just trying to find a level-minded understanding of why people make that decision and really don't make that sacrifice and dedicate themselves to one person."

Burris also wants to write a script about life in the CFL, but his two projects have been put on hold now that six-month-old Armand is in his life.

"When I go home now, when I see him, it kind of puts everything else in the rear-view mirror," he said.

Looking ahead, however, Burris likely won't feel complete until guiding the Stampeders to a Grey Cup title. The tools appear to be in place in Cowtown, but Burris still needs to get over mental mistakes and crucial times.

Going into last week's game against B.C., he had thrown 20 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, and his passer rating ranked fourth among the league's eight starting pivots.

"This is a long-term plan here for us as far as with the team and everything," Burris said. "Of course there's some bumps in the road ...

"It's always a work in progress, on and off the field, for both my family and for the team here. So it's just a thing where you continue to plug at it.

"You take the good with the bad, but you learn from it all."


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