Before he was a Grey Cup champion, he was a Canadian Bowl champion, and Andrew Harris is coming back to where it all began.
Harris is still a CFL player with the Toronto Argonauts, but he’s already gotten started on what will come next for him after his playing days are over. He spoke to the News Bulletin this week about football, family and financial advising while training for his next career with Ladysmith’s Orca Wealth and Insurance Services.
Harris has already gotten started as head of football operations with the Nanaimo-based Vancouver Island Raiders, the junior club with which he starred, set records, won championships and attracted interest from the pros. Harris will coach the Raiders in 2024, after one last CFL season, but he’s already become involved in coaching staff and personnel decisions, and has gotten the chance to talk to some junior football prospects who have been thrilled to receive a phone call from a CFL star.
“I think we’re already a few more wins better than we were last year just as of today, based on our coaching staff and the new players we have,” Harris said.
The V.I. Raiders were champions or contenders every season when Harris played in Nanaimo and part of his drive to revamp the organization is so that players now can have some of the same experiences he did.
“No matter what their story is – if they’re coming in for one year or they’re going to be a five-year junior player, I just want to make sure that they’re leaving the team a better person, a better football player and leaving them with some memorable experiences and things they can kind of hold onto for the rest of their lives,” he said.
He’s coached young players at camps, he’s been a locker room leader in the CFL and he’s a father, so he’s confident that he’ll take to the teaching and leadership side of coaching junior athletes.
“I’ve got to be a big brother to these guys – be their friend but also be stern with them. It’s going to be a fun relationship,” Harris said. “I’m really looking forward to helping make an impact in their lives.”
He says he’ll be devoting time to the Raiders even once the CFL season starts. He had contemplated retiring from pro football after this past season, when his Argonauts won the Grey Cup, but with the group of guys the Argos were assembling for 2023, he decided he wanted to play one more year. He recognizes he’ll be a backup or part of a running back tandem, and in the past he might not have accepted that, but he said he has to be honest with himself that the game film shows he isn’t the same back he was in his prime.
“The role I’m playing on the team is not just what I’m doing on the field, but it’s more so off the field,” he said. “So for me, I’m going to enjoy this from a different spectrum – enjoying going to every stadium, enjoying the locker room a lot more.”
In addition to getting ready for the coming CFL and CJFL seasons, Harris is also looking after a four-month child, while also training remotely for his financial advising career. There’s a lot to read and a lot to learn, but Harris is picking it up well, said Orca Wealth owner Dave Shortill.
“He’s managing to balance a really crazy time in his life where he had to make a whole bunch of really serious decisions…” Shortill said. “He’s got a very good business acumen [and] he’s a teacher. He loves teaching and as a financial advisor or an independent broker, we don’t really have anything to sell anybody, we just educate and teach them and show them what other successful people are doing.”
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