Burris long-distance mentor to Riders QB

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

REGINA -- In the days leading up to a first-place showdown, two opposing quarterbacks have fired words back and forth through text messages.

A little trash talking? Quite the opposite, actually.

Henry Burris reached out to Darian Durant this off-season and offered to be a sounding board for advice whenever the Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback needed it.

Before Burris took over the helm of the Calgary Stampeders offence in 2005, his feet were held to the fire on a daily basis as the Riders' No.-1 pivot.

So even though the two QBs are fighting for the same goal -- the right to host the West final -- that hasn't stopped Burris from mentoring the first-year starter as they face each other tonight at Mosaic Stadium (5 p.m., TSN).

"He can relate to what I'm going through, and he helps me go through it a little bit," Durant said yesterday. "I lean on him a little bit to get through this. He's a good guy, and he never steers me wrong."

Burris tells him "just not to worry about what people say," Durant said. "We're all human and we know what's being said out there. He's been telling me all year to not worry about it. You can't control it."

By all accounts, Durant has heeded Burris' advice, especially when it comes to facing the Stamps.

In the first meeting, Durant threw a 65-yard touchdown to Chris Getzlaf with 67 seconds left for a 24-23 win at McMahon Stadium. In the second outing, Durant drove for a game-tying TD toss to Andy Fantuz in the final minute before getting another two majors in overtime for a 44-44 sawoff.

There are plenty of similarities between Durant and Burris.

Both have great running ability and have all the tools to succeed, but they have made similar mistakes along the way.

This is Durant's first season as a starter, and he's having the same flashes of brilliance Burris did when he was the Riders' most outstanding player nominee in 2000.

But along with Burris' 30 TDs that season, he had 25 interceptions as a rookie starter.

Durant has 22 TDs and 21 INTs this year and is up for the MOP award.

"I see him as being a better quarterback than I was at that time in my career," Burris said. "I can't wait to see him in the future and see how he continues to grow and progress as a quarterback.

"He's prettier than me. He looks more like an athlete out there. I run clumsy. I never look pretty in my outfit. He's a big guy and he has so many intangibles, not only to be a quarterback and decision-maker. He has so much athleticism to go along with that. He's young in so many ways and he will continue to grow."

Being the quarterback in Regina is the toughest job in the CFL. No other player has as much scrutiny and hears everyone's opinion in the smallest CFL market.

Burris knows that better than anyone, so he has tried to help Durant out.

"It's tough to be a QB, period," Burris said. "When you are the only professional team in the province, the pressures are focused on the focal point of the team, and that's the quarterback.

"When you are in that position, there are a lot of demands. He's a level-headed guy who can handle it. There are demands on the field but off the field as well."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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