CALGARY — Edwin Harrison says he never could’ve predicted how his career path in professional football would unfold.
Calgary’ starting offensive tackle also couldn’t have guessed that joining the Stamps back in 2010 would eventually help him uncover a major part of his family’s roots, too.
The next part in TSN’s ‘Engraved on a Nation’ series resumes on Friday night following the Stamps-Eskimos season finale, telling the story of a 1956 plane crash that killed all 62 passengers and crew members on board – including five CFL All-Stars.
“This entire process of filming has really been an eye-opening experience and a true learning experience about Calvin, and about our family as a whole.”
– Edwin Harrison on his involvement with the film
One of those All-Stars was Calvin Jones, a former college standout at offensive line before joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the grandfather of Harrison.
The current Stamps’ offensive lineman spent the past several months learning more about his family’s fascinating history, and in ‘The Crash of Flight 810’, he tells the story of his grandfather in his own words.
“It really was awesome, I think probably more so than telling the story, but being able to meet family that I’ve never met in my life on my grandfather’s side of the family, it was very rewarding,” says Harrison
“To have the experiences that I had can’t be put into words.”
His family back in Houston is holding a viewing party on Friday when it airs for the first time. Harrison, meanwhile, says he hasn’t seen it yet – but he has seen the other documentaries in the series, and can’t wait to see the finished product with this one.
“I know the amount of work that the film crew and the director Paul Cowan have put into the piece, and I think that they are going to do an outstanding job that not only my family will be pleased with, but the CFL and everyone that tunes in and watches it on November 2nd,” he says.
Harrison was first approached in the off-season to do the film, first talking to his team about the idea before receiving phone calls from Cowan explaining what it would be all about.
“As soon as he told me, I was completely on board, as well as my family,” he says. “We were very excited about this opportunity.”
It allowed him and his family to continue piecing together a past that they had little knowledge of.
Harrison started taking a particular interest in his grandfather when he started playing football later in high school. He had been an offensive lineman himself from the very first snap, but had no idea that was Jones’ position too.
“Once football became a pretty big part of my life and something I cared a great deal about, and I found out who he was and the things that he had done over such a short period of time, that was something that I had to find more about,” he recalls.
“I had to find out more about this great football player that played offensive line, the same position that I play – it was something that I really couldn’t stay away from.”
But there was still so much he didn’t know, and it was ‘Engraved on a Nation’ that taught Harrison and his family so much more.
In the summer, Harrison made the three-hour hike up the mountain of the crash site in B.C., Mount Slesse, where Jones was killed at age 23. Meanwhile throughout filming and narration, the Houston, Texas native met cousins and aunts and uncles that he previously didn’t even know of.
“This entire process of filming has really been an eye-opening experience and a true learning experience about Calvin, and about our family as a whole,” he says. “We knew really as much as my grandmother knew, and the limited amount of information that my father knew which was from my grandmother, so we really didn’t have a lot of information.”
Harrison says his grandfather’s story has brought his family closer, and Friday’s doc should show viewers how football and family come together.
“I think that people will really see that football has been an important thing, a huge role in our family’s life, but I think that people will see that family is really the most important thing,” he says.
“Although family can sometimes be difficult and hard to understand, family is something that keeps you together mentally, physically, and spiritually through the ups and downs.”
The third-year Stampeder says he really enjoyed the previous docs, and was especially touched by the Chuck Ealey story, which took place in a similar setting. Part of the reason Jones ended up playing north of the border, despite such a prolific college career in the States, was because of his skin colour.
For Harrison, 27, seeing such inspiring stories as Ealey’s and Anthony Calvillo’s being followed by his own family’s story is pretty special.
“It’s really something that you can’t put into words,” says Harrison. “Life never really goes according to how you plan it, and what’s funny is that my life and my football career haven’t gone the way that I planned it to go.”
“But I couldn’t have asked for anything more than what I have now.”