TORONTO — Time has done little to cure what ails Toronto Argonauts slotback Andre Durie.
Durie signed a contract extension with Toronto on Monday that will keep him with the Argos through the 2016 season. The 2013 campaign was a banner one for Durie but it ended bitterly Nov. 17 in the East Division final at Rogers Centre at the hands of the arch-rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
And visions of Hamilton players celebrating a Grey Cup berth on Toronto’s home field remains a bitter pill for Durie to swallow.
“Any losses are always bitter against Hamilton,” Durie said. “Losing in the East final was tough because we worked so hard throughout the year.
“Coach Barker has literally taken me under his wing since he got here. He’s been able to provide me with so much guidance and knowledge to get better as a player and person.”
– Argos SB Andre Durie on GM Jim Barker
“We faced a lot of adversity, a lot of injuries, a lot of ups and downs and some tough road games and to end that way just left a bad taste in your mouth. It sticks in my mind just to motivate me to continue to strive for perfection, to take away the little mental errors and to be better and more functional for my team and to produce for my team.”
After winning the ’12 Grey Cup at Rogers Centre, Toronto finished atop the East Division standings with an 11-7 record. But Hamilton dashed the Argos’ hopes of repeating at CFL champions with a 36-24 road victory in the conference final.
Unfortunately for Hamilton, its season ended with a 45-23 Grey Cup loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium.
Durie enjoyed a standout 2013 campaign. The five-foot-10, 199-pound Durie led the CFL with a career-high 92 catches for 986 yards (also a career best) and three touchdowns.
Durie signed with Toronto as an undrafted free agent in 2007.
“We believe Andre Durie is one of the most talented players in our league, and he’s Canadian,” Argos GM Jim Barker said in a statement. “He has been a very productive member of our offence and a strong contributor on special teams.
“Andre has proven to be a valuable member of the Toronto community and we’re excited to keep him at home to continue his work on and off the field.”
Durie, who played running back during his university career at York, has registered 272 catches for 3,150 yards and 13 TDs with Toronto. His seamless transition from tailback to slotback is even more remarkable considering Durie suffered a horrific leg injury in ’05 with the Lions that not only threatened his football career but had many questioning whether he’d walk normally again.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie, there was definitely a lot of doubt,” Durie said. “It was the people around me who supported me and believed in me and gave me the strength to continue and believe different.
“Without them I wouldn’t have the mindset to keep going. I’m so glad and fortunate to have all my loved ones around me. I never would’ve imagined to be in this position back in ’05 when the injury happened. It’s remarkable and I can’t thank the organization enough for giving me the opportunity to live out my dream to be a professional football player and to have made it this far.”
Durie says he’s especially grateful to Barker, who returned to Toronto as the club’s head coach in 2010 before adding the GM duties prior to the 2011 campaign. In 2012, Barker hired Scott Milanovich as Argos head coach to concentrate full-time on his duties as general manager.
“Coach Barker has literally taken me under his wing since he got here,” Durie said. “He’s been able to provide me with so much guidance and knowledge to get better as a player and person.”
Durie said there was no question in his mind that he wanted to remain in Toronto. Should he see his current deal through — after all, CFL contracts aren’t guaranteed — Durie will be 35 and have achieved the rare distinction of spending his entire 10-year career with his home-town team.
However, Durie isn’t about to say he has signed his final CFL contract.
“You never know,” he said. “My body feels great, I still feel at the top of my game and I’m playing good football.
“I don’t really like to look that far ahead into the future, I just take things as they come. I’ll see how it is year to year.”