Hank-ering to stay humble

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:31 AM ET

It was election day, and Henry Burris kept the campaigning to a minimum.

That meant no rousing speeches, no flashy signs or buttons. Heck, the Calgary Stampeders pivot, who was named the West Division Most Outstanding Player yesterday, couldn't even think of a highlight-reel play he wanted every CFL awards voter to consider must-see TV.

"Hmmm ... one play," Burris said, repeating the question. "I really can't say, because this year, I didn't do any of that diving and stuff like that. I wasn't trying to play Superman out there. My thing was just all about executing and putting the ball where it should go and making good reads.

"So, hopefully, there's more than one."

The CFL's most outstanding player race is down to two.

While the world waited yesterday to find out if America would choose Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain in a presidential showdown, the league announced Burris is up against Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo in the 2008 MOP throwdown.

Just don't expect a smear campaign from either side. Not only are Burris and Calvillo among the CFL's finest athletes, they're also two of the league's class acts.

Burris, who certainly lives up to his nickname Smilin' Hank, is one of the CFL's most recognizable figures and a tireless ambassador of the game, while Calvillo is one of the feel-good stories of the year, having enjoyed a renaissance campaign after pondering retirement last off-season while his wife battled cancer.

"May the best man win," Burris said. "A.C. is a hell of a quarterback and if he was to come out with it, then kudos to him, because he's worked hard for it."

Hardly sounds like a battle cry, does it? If the numbers are any indication, it'll be a close race.

Calvillo tossed for 5,624 yards and 43 touchdowns, slightly more than what Burris registered in the far-superior West Division -- a career-high 5,093 passing yards and 39 TDs.

Calvillo's passer rating is also better by an eyelash -- 107.2 to 103.8 -- but the Stamps signal-caller was better on the ground, rushing for 595 yards and reaching the endzone three times. Calvillo had 189 rushing yards and two majors.

Burris' Stampeders finished with a 13-5 record, two wins ahead of the Alouettes, who might've had a dozen if not for the decision to sit several starters, including Calvillo, in the regular-season finale.

Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel won't cast a vote -- the media determines the CFL's major award winners -- but gave Burris a ringing endorsement.

"The way he manages the game from the quarterback position, the way he puts his team consistently in good positions, the way he takes care of the football, how he helps his teammates be better football players ... that's really outstanding qualities to have as your quarterback," Hufnagel said. "We're very fortunate to have a player like Henry be the quarterback for our football team."

Several other Stampeders -- including most outstanding special teams player nominee Sandro DeAngelis -- are enjoying career seasons, but Burris is a big reason the club has a first-round bye and will host the West Division final next Saturday at McMahon Stadium. With a victory, the Stamps will book a ticket to the Grey Cup, where their start quarterback can campaign for the trophy he really wants.

"Just like I told Huffer (yesterday), these awards mean nothing to me without a champagne shower and all my guys there with me," Burris said.


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