Up for the challenge

IAN BUSBY

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

The goal for Henry Burris heading into his third season as starting quarterback of the Calgary Stampeders is to elevate the club to a Grey Cup contender.

The past two seasons have gone well in the regular season, only to end in disappointing playoff defeats on the turf at McMahon Stadium. This is a big year for the Stampeders to hit the next level, which in turn makes it a huge one for Burris' career.

Sun Media: What's your biggest challenge leading the Stampeders in your third year?

Burris: Really, it was learning the new offence, going from the Steve Buratto age to George Cortez. Throughout training camp, I was able to make that transition. The fact that Cortez is so detailed, it's getting imbedded in my mind.

Sun Media: What does the Stampeders' "One" campaign mean to you?

Burris: It means a lot because it's not just the team. It's about the entire organization and being Stampeders, from the fans in the stands to the ones who drive around with stickers on their cars. To me, this is the best organization in the entire league. They have first-class treatment of people around them.There were a couple of lean years in there, but we've built on it the last couple seasons. If this thing happens with us getting to the Grey Cup, we need everybody to believe we can make it happen. That's what it means to me.

Sun Media: How have playoff disappointments made you a better quarterback?

Burris: It makes you stronger because you gel with your players more. Even though people blame me for making all the mistakes, there were guys on defence who pointed at themselves saying they shouldn't have given up those touchdowns. It brought us all together more.

You have to overcome disappointments in order to build a team because it builds character. That's why you don't hear the jibber-jabber we've had in the past. Guys know it's so important to me because I understand how things flow within the team. I don't have to do as much as I have in the past. I welcome that.

Sun Media: How has being a father changed your outlook on your career?

Burris: It's made me more focused. It was tough last year playing because I'm such a caring person, every time he would cry I would jump up. I would come into the locker-room bleary eyed and guys would know right away. Nicole would kick me out the day before games to go to a hotel downtown so I could get some sleep. That's the big thing is I think about the small things a lot more.

Last year, I tried to work my butt off trying to be a daddy, a player and a hard worker. This year, I'm more focused every day and slowing things down, trying not to do too much.

Sun Media: How has the CFL changed since your first year in the league?

Burris: That was almost 11 years ago! I would have to say the defences are more complex. They do more with zone blitzes now and there are some better athletes. You used to be able to run circles around defensive ends and now they run you down. It took a big twist last year because there were more interceptions and fewer points scored for all teams.

Sun Media: How would you tell a young quarterback to deal with the pressure of playing in the CFL?

Burris: Every quarterback coming here has experienced similar things in their careers. A guy like Akili Smith has been through the NFL and knows what's going on. But I tell him it's different around here because you may run into people who are Stamps fans but not necessarily football fans. They may criticize and may not know the game. The starting QB is the most hated guy in town. Popularity is week to week. I tell the young guys all the focus is on you, so as long as you handle your job, the team will rally around you and so will the fans.

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QUICK HITS

Q: Are there any weird comments in the huddle?

A: I once told someone, I don't remember who, that a girl in the third row told me she was going to flash him. That got his attention.

Q: Does that stuff happen a lot?

A: It depends on when it happens. Sometimes we've had a couple of good drives, but maybe a guy missed a block on the last drive and it went bad. I try to say something to break the ice. You can tell how the huddle is when you walk in, whether it's thick or loose. Sometimes you feel that thick huddle, you have to say something to break the ice and put a smile on their faces.

Q: On a day off, what would you do?

A: I would spend time with my little man (son Armand). I would love to be out golfing but in training camp, I'm so busy.

Q: What should people know about your home town of Spiro, Okla.?

A: We're aiding the ethanol production because of all the corn. But they have the Spiro mountain, which is a huge Indian burial ground.

Q: What's the best gift you ever received?

A: My little man (Armand). I thank my wife for him every day.

Q: What's your favourite piece of clothing?

A: My suit collection is getting a lot better. It has vastly improved. Get the cameras out on road trips.

Q: What other position could you play in football?

A: I could be a safety or a wide receiver. I always had good hands and as a safety, I used to love to hit. I don't have the hitter's mentality anymore. But the best position is holder.

Q: Why is one the loneliest number?

A: Everyone is afraid of being in that spot where you are the one guy. One person who is always called to do something. The world is always on your shoulders and people know the one decision can make or break something. Nobody wants to get too close because you will be guilty by association.


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