Henry Burris and Rick Campbell are back together.
Campbell, the BC Lions head coach/co-GM, hired Burris as his offensive advisor on Tuesday. Burris ended his CFL career with Campbell in Ottawa and led the Redblacks to a 2016 Gray Cup win in the last game of his Canadian Football Hall of Fame career.
Burris is returning to the CFL after spending two seasons on the Chicago Bears coaching staff. He served as a seasonal assistant coach in 2020 before being named offensive quality control coach last year.
Burris said he maintains coaching deals on both sides of the border, but his familiarity with Campbell played a key role in his decision.
“It was huge,” Burris said. “Rick is so cool, calm and collected and seeing him celebrate in 2016 after winning the Gray Cup still brings tears to my eyes.
Burris ended his CFL career in style, rushing for 461 yards and three TDs to lead the Redblacks to a 39-33 Gray Cup win in overtime over Calgary. It was Ottawa’s first soccer championship in 40 years.
Campbell was Ottawa’s head coach from 2014 to 2019. He joined the Lions in 2020 — CFL didn’t play that year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — but BC (5-9) finished fourth in the West Division last year.
“Henry is a great addition to our coaching staff,” Campbell said in a statement. “His knowledge, experience and communication skills will be a huge asset to both our quarterbacks and the offense as a whole.”
Young QB Corps
Burris is tasked with coaching a young BC quarterback corps after Mike Reilly, a two-time Gray Cup champion and former CFL MVP, retires at the end of the season. Sophomore Nathan Rourke, a 23-year-old native of Victoria, was promoted to the No. 1 position.
Rourke is followed by fellow Canadian Michael O’Connor, former Saskatchewan roughrider Issac Harker and sophomore Kevin Thomson. All three are just 26 years old.
“Working with quarterbacks was my life,” Burris said. “I have this wealth of knowledge and I need to give it to someone because I feel like I’m getting old and I need to share all the things I’ve learned.”
Burris, 46, certainly has plenty of experience to draw on. He was a CFL quarterback at Calgary (1997–99, 2005–11), Saskatchewan (2000, 2003–04), Hamilton (2012–13), and Ottawa (2014–16), and also spent time in the NFL with Green Bay ( 2001) and Chicago (2002).
Burris was twice the CFL’s standout player (2010, ’15) and won three Gray Cups (1998, 2008, 2016). He was twice the best player of the game.
Burris finished his career with 63,227 passing yards (third-most all-time) and 374 TDs (third overall). In 2020 he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Rourke started BC’s 33-29 opening loss to Saskatchewan on August 6 before Reilly started the second half. Rourke completed 23 of 34 passes for 359 yards and a TD and ran seven times for 34 yards and three touchdowns in the Lions’ 43-10 home win over Edmonton on November 19.
“He could see the field for a whole year and make the adjustments from Ohio,” Burris said of Rourke. “You have to make great decisions and it’s all up to you whether the team wins or loses and I think he’s made those adjustments.”
“To me, Michael is a guy who has a wealth of talent and ability,” Burris said. “He was put in a good position by Rick to come in and compete.
“You will go through your hard times, can you learn from these hard times and grow from them? I just want to be of use to these young men and help them find a simple and efficient way to grow and be the best they can be.”
Burris will travel to Vancouver for staff meetings later this month and then return to BC for training camp in May. However, his family will remain in Chicago and Burris himself will not be with the Lions every day during the season, but will be just a phone or Zoom call away.
“I will still be here, working remotely,” he said. “I’ll make sure to do Zoom calls with the quarterbacks and talk about things we’re rehearsing during training camp so there’s always constant communication.”