Due to the covid 19 related restrictions during the beginning of the 2021 season, the CFL has two Hall of Fame classes on it’s hands awaiting their induction ceremonies. Finally for the 2020 Hall of Fame class they will get the ceremony they have been waiting for prior to the beginning of the 2022 season. In this group there are a few former Ottawa players on the list. The most prominent name on the list in terms of the Redblacks was Henry Burris.
Henry Burris a former QB, who played 17 years in the CFL. He would play a total of 20 years playing football professionally. Burris finished his career with the Redblacks spending three seasons there from 2014-2016. He was the quarterback that led the Redblacks to their last Grey Cup Victory in 2016. This would mark his third victory in the Grey Cup as a player. In this game he would also be named Grey Cup MVP for the second time in his three victories, the first time coming 8 seasons prior in 2008. Burris is a household name when it comes to the Canadian Football League. After going undrafted in the NFL draft he would sign with Calgary as a free agent back in 1997. He would ultimately serve as a back-up to future NFL player Jeff Garcia who led the team to a Grey Cup victory in 1998. By 1999 Garcia had left and he was battling Dave Dickenson.
It didn’t take long following the departure of Garcia for Burris to see his first start. After the 99 season he left to join Saskatchewan and won the starting job, starting 16 of 18 games that year. He completed just 53.5% of his passes but managed 4,647 yards, 30 tds, and 25 ints displaying some mobility as well rushing for 8 tds. He would parlay this starting run into a chance with the NFL signing with Green Bay in 2001 but never appeared in a game. He would move on to Chicago playing in 6 games and starting 1 with the Bears. He had a rough showing completing just 35% of his passes for 207 yards 3tds and 5 ints. For 2002 he would appear in NFL Europe with the Berlin Thunder, but his play simply wasn’t enough to warrant anymore NFL chances.
Embracing his career in the CFL from then on, Burris returned to the Roughriders for the 03 and 04 seasons. Originally he was not given his starting job back but still found himself appearing in 10 games. He completed just 11 of 24 passing attempts for 130 yards and 1 td. By 2004 he was named the starter once again starting 16 of 18 games. He would have his best season to date. He completed 59% of his passes for 4,267 yards 23 tds, 18 ints and 7 rushing tds. Following this he would resign with Calgary this time as a starter. However he ceded three starts to his backup in 2005. He would go on to remain with Calgary until the 2012 season. During this 7 season stretch he managed some of the better seasons of his career. Following the 2008 season Burris won his first Grey Cup as a starter and won his first Grey Cup MVP award. He would also win CFL Most Outstanding player in 2010, as well as CFL All Star. During his 7 seasons he was awarded three time CFL West All Star. Leading the league in passing touchdowns in 06, 07 and 2010. Following his tremendous 2010 season he remained with Calgary for the 2011 season before moving on in 2012.
In 2012 he joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. This was his third CFL team, and 6th professional team total to this point. His first season with Hamilton was nothing short of amazing. He would lead the league in passing yards, and touchdowns. He was named CFL East All Star for the first time, marking his fourth divisional All Star nomination. The following season he statistically came crashing back down to Earth. He would throw just 19 less touchdowns, and 1 more interception than he did in his 2012 season. This led to the end of his career with the Tiger Cats, and the beginning of his career with the Redblacks. Some may have felt he didn’t have much left in the tank at 38 years old but Ottawa was willing to give him a chance.
He joined the Redblacks as their starting quarterback in their first season under their new moniker. Unfortunately he would have his worst season statistically since 2003. He would win just 2 games. Despite this performance the legend would return to record heights in year 2. He would set CFL records in 2015 with 45 completions in a single game, and 481 completions over the season. He would be named CFL Most Outstanding Player for his second and final time. He led Ottawa to their first Grey Cup appearance in 2015, but ultimately lose the game. Ottawa would watch as their continued faith in the veteran quarterback rewarded them in 2016 when he helped them win the Grey Cup. This was the first Grey Cup victory in Ottawa history since 1976, 40 years prior to Burris leading them to victory. Burris was named Grey Cup MVP once again following this victory, which led him to consider retirement following the season. Ultimately he would go out on top, opting not to return to the Redblacks in 2017 despite urging from his team. I believe injuries factored into his decision having played in just 13 games total starting just 7 of them. However Burris stepped up when it counted and refused to sit on the bench for the Grey Cup.
Following his retirement he would join the coaching world for the 2020 season with the Chicago Bears, the only NFL team he ever appeared in a game for. He remained for the 2021 season, but was not retained following the firing of Matt Nagy. However, he can hold his head high, as he watches himself be inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame as the first ever Ottawa Redblack to represent them in the Hall of Fame.
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