(With files from Ticats.ca)
HAMILTON -- He is known as 'Smilin' Hank' but what will truly make him grin is leading a win in his first game against his former club.
Burris and the Hamilton-Tiger Cats host the Calgary Stampeders in a game that not only could extend Hamilton's winning streak but would act as the perfect outcome for a quarterback that was shipped out of town and now re-emerged as arguably the league's top pivot.
According to Burris, the old adage of this being another game may not be entirely accurate if one reads between the lines as the once seven-year Stampeder doesn't just want to come away with a win, he wants to leave a lasting mark.
“You always want to beat friends, because these are games that we’ll talk about in 10 years when we’re all retired and reflecting back on our careers,” said Burris.
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“Juwan Simpson and Charleston Hughes and all of those guys will be gunning for me. We’ll be trying to take each other’s heads off and get the win for our team. But afterwards, these are the games that we’ll be able to brag to each other about.”
Bragging rights aside, Burris, who is known as one of the more humble ambassadors of the game, points out that one must not mistake his hunger with over-confidence as he remains the ultimate reflection of what their locker room stands for.
“This team is hungry. That’s one of the things that I first noticed when I got into this locker room,” he said. “It’s a lot of humble guys who are concerned with the big picture but also taking care of the little things.
You haven’t heard a lot about the Saskatchewan game because we’re all about moving forward.”
He references the contest prior to the bye week where he helped orchestrate an impressive fourth quarter comeback to defeat the then-first place Riders.
In that game, he passed for 356 yards and four touchdowns on 29 of 40 passing and in the process, cementing both Player of the Week and Player of the Month recognition.
“He’s done a good job of executing the plays as they’re designed,” Ticats head coach George Cortez said of his quarterback. “That sounds pretty simple but sometimes it’s hard. There are guys on the other side. Even though we spend a lot of time drawing defences up on cards and trying to get the other guys to play that defence, sometimes it doesn’t look the same in practice as it does in the game.
“He’s had good patience and he’s waited on things to happen. Receivers have done a nice job of running routes and we’ve had good protection. It takes all three of those things to happen to have success in the passing game.”
Lost in the storylines surrounding Burris is that Thursday marks Cortez's first meeting against the Stampeders where he spent time as an offensive coordinator with his current quarterback as his student.
True to form, however, the last thing on Cortez' mind is drawing links between he and his old club.
“The importance of it is that it’s the next game,” said Cortez. “The next game is always the most important game.”
The coach did admit that his familiarity with the Stampeders and vice versa would make proper execution even more crucial on Thursday than it otherwise would be.
“It makes it interesting because when I watch them play, I see some of the things they’re doing and understand why they’re doing them,” said Cortez.
“I’m sure they do the same thing. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do what you normally would, but it probably means that you’ll have to execute at a higher level.”