OTTAWA — Henry Burris was asked the question almost immediately after he led the Ottawa Redblacks to a thrilling win over the Calgary Stampeders in last season’s Grey Cup.
Are you going to retire?
The veteran quarterback and his wife agreed it wasn’t a decision that should be made based on emotion and decided to wait until 2017 to discuss his football future. On Tuesday, he answered that post-game question, announcing he was retiring at the age of 41.
“We knew it was going to be a huge year with it being the country’s 150th and the Grey Cup being here,” said his wife Nicole, sitting alongside him at a news conference. “I would say the one thing that almost had him coming back was at the parade when everyone was screaming ‘One more year!’ I almost thought on the stage he was going to say ‘OK.”‘
Taking the time to absorb the victory and enjoying his family helped Burris make the final decision, his wife said.
“We realized there was nothing left to do,” she said. “His last two years of his career is what people pray for through their entire career so there was really nothing left to do. We really just sat down and did a gut check.”
It was an ending right out of a Hollywood movie.
After losing the starter’s job to Trevor Harris this past season, Burris came back and led the Redblacks to the playoffs and capped the season with a 39-33 overtime Grey Cup victory over the heavily favoured Calgary Stampeders.
Burris almost didn’t play the game as he felt a pop in his knee during warm-up, but thanks to medication made it to the field in time for kickoff and was impressive completing 35-of-46 passes for 461 yards and three touchdowns and was named the game’s MVP.
The Spiro, Okla., native retires from the game third on the CFL’s career list in yards passing (63,227) and touchdowns (374), a three-time Grey Cup champion (1998, 2008, 2016) and with two outstanding player awards (2010, 2015)
Burris said through the course of last season, when he was sidelined due to injury and then forced into the backup role, he realized it would likely be his final year as the toll of the game became more evident. He also enjoyed having the opportunity to be more involved with his boys Armand and Barron, who were also with him at Tuesday’s announcement.
“For me to be selfish I could have said let’s do one more year, but when it came down to it the most important values for me were my family first and the future being second,” said Burris. “For me it wasn’t a time to take a step back, it was a time to continually move forward and seize the moment for the opportunities that are there and with all the opportunities, when we looked at our options, there was no way I could pass that opportunity up.
“I’m thankful to be one of the few people to play this game until I’m 41 years old, but even more importantly I’m coming off the field with my health,” said Burris.
When the Redblacks signed Harris last season it was with the agreement that he would be the starter in 2017 and that also played a factor in Burris’ decision.
“For me this is only the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another,” he said.
Burris could have likely explored other options around the league, but said that was never a consideration as the family was determined to stay in Ottawa.
“Ottawa is our home.”
Known for his trademark smile and outgoing nature Burris would seem like a natural to join the media, but for now plans to take a step back and enjoy time with his family.
One of his priorities is to learn to skate so he can play hockey with his kids.
After stops in Calgary, Saskatchewan and Hamilton Burris admits playing in Ottawa was special.
“Hands down this is the best place to play in this entire league,” he said.
Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins announced the team would be honouring Burris at some point during the upcoming season.
“None of us are where we’re at today if it’s not for Henry Burris,” he said. “This franchise is not where it’s at if not for Henry Burris.”