By Perry Lefko
After each game, regardless of whether he has won or lost, performed strongly or struggled, Ottawa REDBLACKS’ quarterback Trevor Harris will take time to give thanks to God, either by kneeling with players after a game at midfield, or by taking some time to do it privately.
Trevor did so last Saturday following a rainy and windy game in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats in which Ottawa locked up first place atop the East Division. It also marked a personal milestone for Trevor, who surpassed the 5,000-yard passing mark for the first time in his seven-year Canadian Football League career.
And yet, it has still been a season with low points. In two of his first four games he was pulled early which, did little to stifle criticism of his play by pundits, although none of it came from REDBLACKS’ management or coaching staff. He has thrown 22 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions this year. In the two losses, he had zero TD passes and three picks.
“I sure like the guy,” REDBLACKS’ head coach Rick Campbell said after the Ticats’ win. “Some other people doubt him, but I’m sure glad he’s on our side. I think this weather plays into our offence and him because he’s an accurate thrower and we have some big targets that can catch the ball. Good on him for not being phased in the moment.”
In the media scrum afterward, Trevor was asked about eclipsing the 5,000-yard mark for the first time, and he seemed surprised.
“Oh, really?” he said and then politely said “thank you” when a reporter congratulated him on the achievement.
When asked what the mark meant, he added: “The fact my O-line kept me healthy; the guys that pushed me this year to put us in good situations; Jaime Elizondo, the amazing offensive coordinator, he gets the credit he deserves.”
When the rest of the media departed, I interviewed him and asked him to tell me something about himself beyond just playing football. He immediately talked about his faith in Jesus Christ.
“That’s the reason I’m able to play,” he said. “I’m just grateful to be under His grace, and aside from that I just do everything I can to glorify Him. I’m a pretty simple guy. I like to be at home with my wife (Kalie, whom he married in December, 2015), and little man (son, Trenton James Harris, born on January 26, 2017). If we go out it’s to get something to eat. I’m a real simple guy.”
He said the birth of his son has made a huge difference in his life, giving him perspective.
“It checks yourself a lot, the way that you’re acting, because you know that (your children) are going to take on your manners, and obviously I want him to be a good, young man,” Trevor said. “I hope he grows up to love Christ like myself. I just know that he’s going to follow my example, so it ends up putting a lot of responsibility on myself.”
We talked about his season and the ups and downs he’s had and the fact he’s had his best season (statistically) of his career. I asked him how faith factors into the times when things don’t always go your way. While I was talking about this season, I could have also been referencing his career, which has gone through various peaks and valleys, playing in various leagues and refusing to give up on his dream and passion.
“My favourite bible verse is James, Chapter 1, verses two to three (Trials and Temptations),” the 32-year-old native of Waldo, Ohio said. “It’s about considering tough times. It’s a time to grow and persevere. You can use those times to make yourself better. That’s what I try and do. I just try and realize nothing happens by mistake. God allows everything to happen in our lives and we have the choice and the chance to use it to the best of our ability to better ourselves.”
I asked him about the CFL midfield practice of players from both teams praying together in a circle after a game.
“For me it’s a chance to reflect real-quickly and thank God. I have the ability to physically and mentally play this game; that He’s allowing me to live my dreams – win, lose, draw, play well, play bad, whatever it is,” Trevor said. “And if I do miss something in the middle of the field, I just make sure I come to my locker and get on my knees and pray and just thank Him real fast. The creator of the world loves me.”
He said it’s important to separate that the same rival player who may have tried to physically do whatever is necessary to throw him off his game may be kneeling beside him afterward in prayer.
“You’ve got to be able to compartmentalize and understand what happens between the lines is between the lines and after that it’s about representing Christ and being a good sport,” Trevor said. “And during the 60 minutes it’s about representing Christ and fighting with the most ferocity that we can to glorify Him and use the talents we’re given to bring Him glory.”
He said he prays before the game that God will allow him to walk off the field free of injury.
“God allows thing to happen,” Trevor said. “He doesn’t cause bad things. He allows them and he knows we can use them for greater good. Any time I see a person on the other team go down or my own teammate, I’ll be one of the first people on the sidelines to kneel and pray for him, and if the player is (physically) close I try to put my hand on him and pray for him.”
Early in the season, Trevor’s onetime Argo teammate, Ricky Ray, suffered a devastating neck injury. He has not played another game. Again, I asked him how he views something such as that within the context of his faith.
“That’s heartbreaking,” he said. “Obviously Ricky is a good friend of mine. We had four good years together, rooming on the road, a lot great memories. He’ll be one of my good friends till the day that I die. When that happens, it’s bigger than football. A lot of times there’s a reality check that there’s more to this than just wins and losses. So at that point you’re able to pray to God that he’s just okay; that he can be a father and a husband. As much as we treat this game like it’s the most important thing in the world, it’s not.”
I also wanted to know why he became a player rep this year for the first time with the Canadian Football League Players’ Association when he probably has a full-day putting in time to do film work, attend meetings, practice and do post-practice film work. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the CFL and CFLPA ends after this season.
“I know it’s a big off-season for us to get a lot of things right and I want to be involved as a leader and as a representative,” he said. “I’m just grateful that I’ve played long enough in this league to hear the voices in the locker room and hear what the players want done. I want to be a part of making things fair in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that are up for debate.
“And it’s a way for me to grow and learn in a leadership role, so I want to take advantage of it. I think we have reasonable player reps and a reasonable Association and I know the owners will be reasonable [on their ends] as well and, hopefully, it won’t be too difficult [to reach an agreement on a new agreement].”