February 23, 2023

Vanstone: Harris, Riders a perfect match

Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

Trevor Harris once resolved to restrict his long drives to the fairways. 

“True story: I tried to quit football in high school and play golf,” the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ newly signed starting quarterback recalls.  

“I went home from my freshman year one day and I was like, ‘Mom, I’m quitting football, because I love to golf.’ 

“She paid me 50 bucks to play football that year and I thought, ‘Man, this is sweet. I can buy Chinese food for a whole week.’ 

“I was a bad negotiator at that time.” 

Not anymore. Harris is delighted to be the owner of a brand-new two-year contract — one that serves as a reward for the old-school values he embraces. 

Market Open: The 2023 CFL Free Agent Tracker
» CFL.ca’s top 30 free agents
» Heading to Riderville: Harris signs with Saskatchewan
Sneaky Work: Nye’s under the radar signings

A longtime admirer of the way football is revered in Saskatchewan, Trevor Harris will get his shot to lead the team in 2023 (Riderville.com)

Fans see the player who has twice unfurled 30-plus touchdown passes in a CFL season. Or someone who in 2018 established a league record for touchdown passes (six) in a playoff game. 

But the path to pigskin prominence has included assorted twists and turns. A few surprises, good and bad. And several foundational elements, such as faith, family and, of course, football. 

It is a story that is sincerely, but not succinctly, told — because there are so many dimensions to this very proud husband, father, son, brother and teammate. 

How else to begin but by asking the ever-popular question: Where’s Waldo? 

Waldo, a village in Ohio, is 120 kilometres south of Cleveland. It was in Waldo, part of Marion County, where Tom and Suzanne Harris raised four children — Trevor, Cody, Autumn and Chantress.  

(Chantress, by the way, was nine years old when she won the Great American Modelling and Talent Search in 1994.) 

“The last census population for Waldo was 336 people,” Trevor Harris says. “We’ve got a stop light. We had a dairy bar and a gas station. We’ve got a little dentist’s office downtown. 

“But we’re known for our bologna sandwiches. I’ll have to bring some up here and fry some up for the guys.” 

As a small fry, Harris immersed himself in sports of all sorts while maintaining a high academic standing. The community’s newspaper, the Marion Star, routinely published lists of honour-roll students — Harris invariably being among them. 


A surfing of the Star’s archives also uncovers exhaustive documentation of his accomplishments in basketball, baseball, wrestling and football.  

While in middle school, for example, he won a free-throw-shooting competition by going 25-for-25. 

“I’ve always been a fanatic of sports,” Harris reflects. “I became a big Kobe Bryant fan growing up and watching him play. I was always drawn to his mindset and how he was able to have that quote, unquote killer instinct. I was fascinated by guys like Peyton Manning, who really took time to master the game. I’ve always been a sucker for watching people master their position and finding ways to dominate their competition week in and week out. 

“It’s a constant pursuit for all of us athletes. There’s only a handful of people who are Kobe Bryant or Peyton Manning, but most guys who spend their lifetime trying to be that way aspire to be the best that way. 

“It has always been interesting to me to watch them, from the time I grew up playing football, basketball and baseball. I stopped wrestling in the fifth grade or the sixth grade because I wanted to focus on basketball. I thought I was going to go to Kentucky to play basketball until I realized I couldn’t quite jump high enough.” 

He made quite a leap, regardless. Despite being submerged on the depth chart as a freshman at Pleasant High School, he soon ascended to a featured role. 

“I was the fifth-string guy and I just fell in love with the game,” Harris says. “The head coach told me to try and start getting some reps to throw at the varsity receivers. I was like, ‘I’m going to see if I can do this, even if I don’t think I’m very good at it.’ 

“I went out and won the job in my sophomore year. The day they told me I was the starter, I called my mom on my flip-phone and said, ‘I’m the starting quarterback for Pleasant High School.’ 

“It still gives me chills even saying that out loud, because of how honoured I was that I got to be in that position. I promised myself from that day forward that if I ever got an opportunity to play, whoever it was for, they would get every ounce of energy I could have.” 

Some of that energy was expended while celebrating. The Pleasant Spartans — state champions in 2002 — lost only twice during the three seasons in which Harris was the starting quarterback. 

At Edinboro University, Harris learned about the importance of self-belief, which propelled him into his pro career (Chris Tanouye/CFL.ca)

Next stop: Edinboro, PA — population: 5,000. 

Edinboro University, an NCAA Division II school, provided the most enticing collegiate option. 

“I thought I conned them into giving me a scholarship,” Harris says. “I didn’t think I was good enough to play. 

“The reason I’m saying these things is that I was defeated mentally. I had to learn through the years that the biggest thing you need to do is believe in yourself.  

“Believing in yourself and mastering yourself are the most important things you do, because you’re not going to master anything until you master yourself. If you’re not a master of yourself, your emotions will get the best of you. That’s a constant battle for us. I think every human being is constantly battling themselves. 

“That’s what I’ve found so enticing about this game. It challenges me physically, mentally and emotionally. It asks me to be a part of something bigger than myself. It allows me to work on mastering myself and putting others’ needs before my own.” 

That is precisely what his parents have done. 

Tom Harris, an accomplished high school football player in his own right, was offered an opportunity to suit up for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. 

“But he didn’t end up taking the scholarship, because he had a job at the brickyard and he was engaged,” Trevor notes. “He ended up not going through with the engagement and getting married, but he had a great job at the brickyard. 

“My mom also played sports, but she actually owns a dance studio. She’s got about 500 or 600 kids who dance for her. She, to this day, is the best leader that I know. The reason is that all she does is care about kids. 

“When she has her dance recitals, she’s on the side celebrating with these kids, because they go out in front of 400 or 500 people and they perform on stage, which is something that is really nerve-racking. 

“She advertises that (the dance program) is for ages two to 102, so she’s got little kids. Most of the people who come there are from five years old to high school age. 

“She helps these kids conquer their fears and lets them know how proud she is of them and how much she cares. 

“I’ve just learned so much about leadership from her. She has been a great leader and teacher and my dad, being a blue-collar guy, has that football background. He has taught me a lot about hard work and perseverance.” 


Tom Harris also played an integral role in the production of two quarterbacks. Cody Harris, who is four years younger than the Roughriders’ new principal pivot, followed his brother as the No. 1 signal-caller at Pleasant High School and Edinboro University. 

While Trevor was a junior with the Edinboro Fighting Scots, a former offensive lineman named Jeremy O’Day was enshrined in the school’s athletics hall of fame. 

A 1996 graduate of Edinboro, O’Day spent 12 of his 14 CFL seasons as a member of the Roughriders’ offensive line before joining the team’s football-operations staff. It was he, coincidentally enough, who in his capacity as general manager and vice-president of football operations officially signed Harris to a free-agent contract on Feb. 14. 

Harris would seem to be a lock to eventually join O’Day in the Edinboro University Athletics Hall of Fame. As a junior and senior in college, Harris was a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is awarded to the most valuable player in NCAA Division II football. 

By the time Harris graduated from Edinboro, he had monopolized the school’s record book, setting virtually every conceivable passing standard. 

Harris signed off at Edinboro in unforgettable — and largely unstoppable — fashion on Nov. 21, 2009. 

In a Division II playoff game against the West Liberty Hilltoppers in West Liberty, W. VA, Harris completed 50 of 76 passes. 

He threw for 630 yards and five touchdowns. 

He ran for two more majors. 

And he lamented an 84-63 loss. 

“I was actually getting recruited by one of the agents at the time,” Harris says. “One of the agents texted me and said, ‘Hey, Trev, they posted the ‘basketball’ score. Did you guys win?’ 

“I was just traumatized because my football career at Edinboro was over.” 

The game appeared to be over, for all practical purposes, when West Liberty assumed a 70-28 lead late in the fourth quarter. Harris, however, was not included to concede. He engineered a spirited rally while fattening his career passing-yardage total at Edinboro to 11,899. 

“I remember we cut the lead to 77-63 with about five minutes left,” he says. “I looked at the scoreboard and said, ‘One stop and an onside kick and we’re going to win this thing,’ and we ended up not getting the ball back.” 

Despite the lack of a stop, Harris’s football career was just getting started — at least in a sense. 

It would soon be time to turn his attention to the professional ranks. What a ride that would be. 

The comment system on this website is now powered by the CFL.ca Forums. We'd love for you to be part of the conversation; click the Start Discussion button below to register an account and join the community!