WINNIPEG - Even though Doug Brown called it the toughest day of his football career, it wasn’t only through football that Richard Harris impacted his life.
Brown spent an emotional four minutes with the media on Wednesday talking about Harris, his defensive line coach who died of a heart attack on Tuesday. Harris, 63, was just as much Brown’s friend as he was his coach.
“I’ve spent as much time with him off the field and outside of here than I have playing football for him, and they’ve both been privileges,” the Bombers defensive tackle said, his eyes red. “It just happened too fast, and it wasn’t enough time.”
Winnipeg’s walk-through on Wednesday morning at Canad Inns Stadium was eerily quiet. There were no laughs and plenty of tears as players, coaches and fans remembered the player and fan favourite.
No one was closer to Harris than Brown, who spent six seasons playing for the former NFLer who had made Winnipeg his home.
“It’s very difficult today,” Brown said. “Subconsciously, whether you realize it or not, you’re listening for him, you’re looking for him, and we’re kind of a little lost out there defensively.”
The Bombers (3-1) will wear ‘RH’ stickers on their helmets Thursday night when they take on the winless B.C. Lions (0-4) in what will no doubt be an emotional game for all involved, considering Harris also worked for the Lions between 2001 and 2004.
A book of condolences has been set up in the Bomber office, and there are several bouquets of flowers already on the counter. Just before noon, a woman pulled up in an SUV, got out and placed a single flower on the rocks outside the office’s front doors.
Brown had to stop talking several times on Wednesday to prevent himself from crying. He said Thursday’s game will help him get his mind off the loss of Harris.
“You just go from being in denial and then in certain situations the reality and the gravity of what’s happened overwhelms you,” Brown said. “So it can be real difficult, and we just need to play football to try and focus our attentions on something to take our minds off of what’s happened and the tragedy.”