Get a load of me, Dad

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

So much about pro sports can be about timing.

Like the case of A.J. Harris and his father.

"My dad played at Wheaton College and had a chance to go to the Green Bay Packers," said the Eskimo rookie running back of his dad Albert who was a study in bad timing.

Albert was a track and field athlete who competed in the 1979 Pan-Am Games but missed his chance to go to the 1980 Moscow Olympics due to the boycott.

It was a different time.

"He ended up going to Vietnam. He never got another shot at pro football. I'm getting to have the career he didn't have a chance to have." For a couple of weeks this summer that didn't look like it was going to be the case.

Timing can be about getting injured and when you get injured or when somebody else gets injured. It can be about opinions of decision-makers, wrong and right.

It can be about A.J. Harris injuring his shoulder in his senior year in college and not being drafted or about coming to training camp with the Edmonton Eskimos and not making the team. He went home thinking his career was over only to get a phone call to return two weeks later and being one of the best stories of the season in the Canadian Football League.

"It was just the situation," said Harris of what happened at training camp here this year.

"I thought I had a pretty good chance. I had a pretty good camp. I thought I did pretty well. I thought I did what I could. I was fortunate enough to get called back."

When he got the call, the 5-foot-11, 225-pound product out of Downers, Illinois was on the plane here and then to Toronto to play in the Eskimos' fourth game of the regular season.

"I came back determined that I was going to work hard and try to be able to make an impact as soon as possible," he said.

"It was a good feeling to show that I could play with these guys and prove I deserved to be up here. But I knew it wasn't just me. I had guys blocking.

My linemen and fullback had a great game and I was just lucky to be the guy in the backfield." Harris won offensive player of the week honours when he carried 21 times and ran for 189 yards against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"That was just everything clicking together. Everybody came out ready to play. It all kind of just meshed. It worked out nicely for me. I was having a good day. The line was opening up so many holes. I was lucky to hit them and make a big impact in that game."

Harris, before he suffered a sprained ACL in the second game of the Labour Day double against the Calgary Stampeders, had carried 89 times for 522 yards and a 5.9 yard average with four touchdowns.

He also has an impressive set of receiving yards having caught 37 passes for 422 yards and five more touchdowns.

Considering he's played in less than seven full games, you have a helluva set of stats for a running back in today's pass-happy Canadian Football League. Harris, if he can get back in the lineup and stay healthy down the stretch, is going to be considered as a rookie-of-the-year candidate.

Harris is a product of Northern Illinois where he rushed 342 times for 1,616 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught 31 passes for 197 yards in a career which included two major injuries, one of which hurt beyond the pain involved.

"I messed up my shoulder in my senior year. That took me out of the draft." Harris signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins in 2006 and was released during the pre-season. He spent the spring of 2007 playing in the final year of NFL Europe for Cologne and attended the training camp of the Seattle Seahawks.

But playing pro football wearing green and gold, that's the career A.J.

Harris is now enjoying and the one his dad never had. And he'll get to have it in person at the next Eskimo home game.

"My dad, my mom, my sister and my aunt are all coming up for the BC game," he said.

"I always had my mom or my dad or both at every single game I played all the way through college.

"But this will be the first time they've been able to be there to watch me as a pro."


Videos

Photos