Passion for ’Peg fans wins out

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:49 PM ET

He’s been a fixture on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers coaching staff the last five years, easily its longest serving member.

But universally respected defensive line coach Richard Harris came this close to leaving for the rival Saskatchewan Roughriders.

What could have been a damaging split between Harris and head coach Paul LaPolice was averted when Harris was named assistant head coach.

More important than the title is the chance for the former Louisiana resident turned year-round Winnipegger to have more of a say in the overall direction of the team he just couldn’t leave.

“That’s something I’m looking forward to... hopefully being able to make a few decisions here and there, about the direction we are going,” Harris said, Tuesday. “We work well together as it is. But I would definitely like to close any gaps that might have been.”

Harris, 62, said he would have liked a shot at the defensive co-ordinator’s position filled by Tim Burke.

“That would have been a good one,” he said. “But that’s not to say, now. We have a good DC here now, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Harris wasn’t even interviewed for the position. Asked if LaPolice gave him a fair opportunity, he hesitated.

“I would rather not talk about me as a DC at this time,” he said, chuckling.

But he wanted to set the record straight on one thing: anybody who doesn’t think he could handle the X’s and O’s is sorely mistaken.

“I’d like to X and O with anybody out there that has the feeling I don’t know what I’m doing in that position,” Harris said. “Some of the decisions we’ve made as defensive units over the years, I’ve had a lot to do with that.”

As for turning down his good friend in Saskatchewan, new Riders head coach Greg Marshall, Harris compared it to losing a family member.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my entire life,” he said, getting emotional at one point. “To me it was like going back home to bury my brother. That’s how close we were, or we are. We will always be close, but he understands that was the decision I had to make.”

He made it because Winnipeg has become home.

“For my passion for Manitoba and Winnipeg,” he said. “The people here that I work with and the fans and friends that I have gotten to know.

“I came here to try and help us achieve a championship one day. I’m still working on it.”

Veteran lineman Doug Brown was glad to see Harris stick around.

“He’s a key ingredient,” veteran lineman Doug Brown said. “He’s a master motivator. He’s just a pleasure to play for.”

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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