Highlighting the month of September: “The Pals” re-unite in Ottawa… sort of

Interviews with both Danny O’Brien and Trevor Harris below

In the month of September, the Redblacks played 4 games, and 3 of them were at TD Place. After coming off a 2-0 start to the season, the Redblacks have fallen to 3-11, losing 11 of the past 12 games. In those losses, it wasn’t easy to find bright spots, although there were many of them.

Throughout the 3 games played at TD Place this past September, the Redblacks hosted many former Redblacks players, two of which would be Danny O’Brien and Trevor Harris. On O’Brien’s side of things, it would be the third time back in Ottawa since his departure. Along with O’Brien, Trevor Harris who he claims his “pal” was back for the first time. To be coming back to Ottawa, they must have been here before, right?

The answer to that is yes, both Trevor Harris and Danny O’Brien spent some time as an Ottawa Redblack.

The Danny O’Brien Chronicles

Danny O’Brien with all his College and Professional level teams

On September 26th of 1990, the world welcomed a legend by the name of Danny O’Brien. O’Brien was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and that’s where he’d also spend a few years of his childhood before moving to North Carolina. Danny got more involved with football as they moved to North Carolina, where he played football at East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, North Carolina.

As he got more involved with football, the better he got. Danny had a quite successful career at high-school which opened eyes for multiple universities. In his senior year of high school, O’Brien completed just 50% of his passes, although he showed off his arm and legs throwing for 1,640 yards and 16 touchdowns while running for 780 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. These numbers impressed some scouts of highly ranked universities as O’Brien got his shot at a few showcases.

Following his near perfect senior year, Danny received offers from North Carolina, North Carolina State, East Carolina, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Duke, Wake Forest, Maryland and Miami. Out of the offers received, he went on to accept a scholarship and go to the University of Maryland.

To start his time at Maryland, he was a redshirt freshman in 2009 and didn’t receive any playing time until the 2010 season opener.

In Maryland’s week one match up vs Navy, O’Brien played one snap, and lost a fumble on the play. A tough start may have been needed for Danny as the rest of the season he was lights out the best freshman of the season.

Being awarded the ACC Rookie of the Year award, O’Brien threw for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdown passes along with one rushing and one receiving touchdown.

After he had a historic freshman season, it seemed as if Maryland would be a top team in 2011 but things took a little turn. O’Brien played just 9 of 12 games, throwing for 1,648 yards and 7 touchdowns. Danny was in need of a bounce back, and that bounce back wasn’t going to take place in Maryland. O’Brien announced that he’d transfer from Maryland to Wisconsin for the 2012 season.

Danny O`Brien at Wisconsin

Unfortunately for O’Brien’s bounce back season, he suffered a season ending injury on October 27th vs Michigan State. Before the injury, he threw for over 500 yards and 3 touchdowns.

If he wouldn’t have been a redshirt in his freshman campaign, that would’ve been Danny;s last season of College Football, but with the redshirt season behind him he had a final shot at showing professional teams what he’s got.

O’Brien’s final shot was a little different from the past chances he’s had, as he found himself in a different division.

O`Brien at Catawba

Danny O’Brien played his final year of eligibility with the Catawba College Indians of the NCAA’s division 2. At Catawba, O’Brien excelled on his legs and with his arm combining for a total of 18 touchdowns to pair with his 2,490 passing yards.

As a conclusion, Danny O’Brien’s final shot gave him his shot at the professional level. Coming out of Catawba College, O’Brien participated in the Atlanta Falcons rookie camp. Unfortunately for him, things didn’t quite work out and he wasn’t offered a contract for the pre-season.

Once he was a free agent, he was signed by the Ottawa Redblacks to be a part of their inaugural season in the CFL.

As the backup quarterback of the Redblacks’ Danny got playing time in 8 of the 18 regular season games. In those 8 games, O’Brien threw for 421 yards and 2 touchdowns with a 53% completion percentage.

The cause for the playing time given in 2014 for O’Brien would be the 2-16 record that the Redblacks had on the season. As for that, things changed for the Redblacks and O’Brien in 2015. In just the second year of existence the Redblacks took the league by storm winning 12 of 18 games and making it to Grey Cup. Along with the Grey Cup appearance, O’Brien played just 3 games where he completed 16 passes for 98 yards.

After a heart breaking ending to the 2015 season with a Grey Cup loss to Edmonton, Danny found himself in the final year of his Redblacks’ contract. Unluckily for him, the Redblacks signed former Argos’ quarterback Trevor Harris which dropped Danny to the 3rd string spot.

That spot was not quite his spot for the season, as in week one’s matchup in Edmonton, Henry Burris suffered a hand injury sidelining him for multiple weeks. With Burris’ injury, Harris was brought in to be the starting quarterback, and O’Brien was back at number 2! With both Harris and Burris rotating, Danny appeared in just 3 games where he threw for a total of 41 yards. With just 41 yards on the season, he showed how the 2016 season was a team effort over a personal effort. That team effort brought them to the second straight Grey Cup, but this one in 2016 was different than the one before, as the Redblacks beat the Calgary Stampeders 39-33 in Overtime.

Fortunately for Danny, he got a ring to go on his finger, although he learnt that there was another path paved for his future. After a Grey Cup championship, Danny O`Brien was signed by the Edmonton Eskimos where he backed up Mike Reilly for both 2017 and 2018.

In the two years he spent in Edmonton, Mike Reilly stayed healthy which would lead to O`Brien getting very limited time at quarterback as he completed 4 of 5 passes for 44 yards while running it once for one yard.

After just getting time in 2 games with Edmonton, he was released by the Eskimos and signed by the Lions in the 2019 training camp where he would back up Mike Reilly for the second time in his career.

The 2019 season hasn’t been very nice to quarterbacks injury wise, although the Lions can not quite relate. Mike Reilly has stayed healthy for the majority of his career, and this year has been a regular for him. Unfortunately for Danny, Reilly staying healthy means he has not gotten many chances at the quarterback position. Appearing in just two games thus far, he is 0 of 4 in passing, although without chances at quarterback, he has found himself on the field every game this season as the place kick holder. O`Brien and the Lions are apart of a 3 game win streak sitting at 4-10 on the season.

On the 21st of September the Lions played the Redblacks at TD Place in Ottawa, and I was able to catch up with Danny after the game, and interviewed him about his time here in Ottawa.

Catching Up with Danny O`Brien

Zlomislic: You spent three seasons here in Ottawa, what was it like to play here (Ottawa)?

O’Brien: “I loved it here! Great people in Ottawa, I remember a lot of great relationships that I have here. We went to two grey cups, which was awesome, lots of great memories here (TD Place) and a great locker room made up of a lot of good bonds with teammates. I keep in touch with a lot of guys that are here and with other teams, and I feel like we have an unforgettable bond almost.”

Zlomislic: Here in Ottawa, you built a lot of wonderful relationships, who have you been keeping in touch with from Ottawa?

O’Brien: “I have talked to nearly everyone! I just talked to Brad (Sinopoli) for a bit and looking back at it, I talk to a lot of guys, Greg (Ellingson), Trevor (Harris), Sir Vincent (Rogers), Willy P and the list keeps going, but the longer I play in the league the smaller the league gets as guys start to retire and enjoy their lives after football, but as I said before, our bonds will never be forgotten.”

Zlomislic: What is your favorite football memory?

O’Brien: “Well, winning the Grey Cup will always be number one! 2016 winning the Cup, the first one here in Ottawa, it was crazy! The franchise and its fans deserved it and it was all around a great experience.”

Zlomislic: How would you describe the 2016 Grey Cup?

O’Brien: “It was awesome to be there for sure! Coming up short the year before, to be in the same position we were a underdog and to play the way we did and actually bring one home, it was just the right end of the week. It felt great to bring it home especially how the game ended in Overtime.”

Zlomislic: This is now year 3 away from Ottawa, what do you miss most here?

O’Brien: “I would say the people, not saying that Edmonton and B.C have been nice but the fans here in Ottawa are great. The city of Ottawa is something I`ve missed, and I realize that every time I play here.”

The tale of Trevor Harris

Trevor Harris was born in Waldo, a small town in Ohio. In the small town, there wasnt much around, but Trevor found himself a few sports teams. In high school, Harris played both Basketball and Football, although he succeeded highly in football. By succeeding, Harris took high school football by surprise, throwing for over 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns in his senior year. These numbers were great, although finding himself in the small town of Waldo, Ohio not many scouts were aware of his talents. A division two school in Pennsylvania named Edinboro University found him, and fell in love with him after his freshman season.

In just his first year of University, Harris threw the ball for 2,547 yards on just 313 attempts. He averaged 8.13 yards per attempt while throwing 20 touchdown passes which awarded him the starting job for the next few seasons.

After throwing for over 2,500 yards in his rookie campaign, Harris had eyes on him all around the NCAA, and if you watched him, he didn’t disappoint you. Harris threw for 11,899 yards and 100 touchdowns in his college career, and 630 of those yards came in his last game at Edinboro.

On November 21st 2009, Trevor Harris appeared in Edinboro`s playoff game vs West Liberty. Edinboro would find themselves losing the game 84-63, but it seemed like Trevor Harris left with a victory. Throwing for 630 yards and 5 touchdowns to pair with two rush touchdowns, Harris took the record for most pass yards in a playoff game and made the game a shootout throwing and running for a combined 7 touchdowns. Now that I look at it, it would have been nice to have him on a fantasy football team that day!

Coming off a great ending to his college career, Harris was brought in for the Jacksonville Jaguars 2010 pre-season. He didn’t appear in much games with Jacksonville, although had the opportunity to spend training camp with the team. After training camp, Trevor was cut by the Jaguars and would spend the rest of 2010, 2011 and part of 2012 on the following teams: The Arizona Rattlers, Hartford Colonials, Buffalo Bills, Sacramento Mountain Lions and the Orlando Predators.

After jumping on and off teams rosters in 2010 and 2011, it seemed as if Harris landed a job up north with the Toronto Argonauts. In the 2012 pre-season finale for Toronto, Trevor got a significant amount of playing time which he used to show off his talents. He completed 13 of 15 attempts for 160 yards and 2 touchdown passes and won his way onto the Argos roster for the 2012 season. In 2012, Trevor Harris found himself throwing the ball for 80 yards on 8 completions. The numbers weren’t great, but Harris had a different kind of win that season. In 2012, Harris was the third string quarterback of the Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts led by future hall of famer Ricky Ray.

In just his first CFL season, Trevor won a Grey Cup, but he had to wait a while to get the chance to go to a Grey Cup as a starter, in fact it took 3 seasons for him to start just one game. In both 2013 and 2014, Harris served as a backup quarterback of the Argos, throwing for 564 yards and 2 touchdowns on 50 completions.

After holding up a 70% completion percentage in the previous two seasons, the Argos looked at Harris to start 16 games of the 2015 season. He wasn’t given the job, as Ricky Ray suffered an injury in the pre-season which sidelined him for the majority of the season. As the backup of the Argonauts, it was time to step up for Trevor Harris and that’s exactly what he did. In the final year of his contract, he led the CFL in passing touchdowns with 33 which paired with 4,454 yards and a 9-7 record as a starter.

Leading the Argonauts to the playoffs, Harris was being looked at as a starting quarterback during free agency and that’s what the Redblacks signed him as, sort of.

In the 2016 off-season, the Ottawa Redblacks signed Harris to be their future starting quarterback, but due to a Henry Burris thumb injury in the first game of the 2016 season, Harris was Ottawa`s starter earlier than expected. The first game he appeared in Red and Black, the ball hit the ground just twice. Harris completed 17 of 19 passes for 292 yards and 3 touchdowns in Edmonton in week one of 2016.

After coming off a crazy first game, it was time for him to start a few games, and things looked pretty good for Harris in the few starts he had. With Burris missing 12 games, Harris started 11 of 18 games in the 2016 season, completing 73% of his passes he finished the regular season with 3,301 passing yards and 16 touchdowns to pair with just 4 interceptions. Though he didn’t play the entire season, it seemed as if Harris was ready to be the starter of the team, but Henry Burris still had gas left in the tank. For the remainder of the 2016 season, Harris sat behind Burris where he watched Burris lead a 8-9-1 recorded team to a grey cup championship.

Behind his 2nd Grey Cup win, it was announced that Harris would be the starting quarterback of the Redblacks in the 2017 season following Henry Burris` retirement.

Without a mentor on the sidelines, Harris started 15 of 18 games in the 2017 season as he battled injuries for the other 3 games. In the 15 games started, he threw for 4,679 yards and 30 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Harris and the Redblacks, the 2017 season ended after a loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the East Semi Final.

Coming his first season as the starting quarterback, Harris was back in Ottawa with a little different terms. He was more experienced going into the 2018 season, as the previous season was just his first game as the starting quarterback of a franchise, he proved that he was still new to it. Now as the starting quarterback for the second straight season, Harris had no excuse if he didn’t play well as he is experienced enough. Although thing were on Harris`side in 2018, winning 11 of 18 games and going to the Grey Cup, Harris didn’t need an excuse.

In 2018, Harris threw for over 5,000 yards and 22 touchdowns and was in the talks for MOP especially after his big East Final performance which set records.

On November 18th, 2018 the Redblacks hosted the Hamilton Tiger Cats for the 2018 East Final and the Redblacks took Hamilton’s chances at the Grey Cup and won 46-27. Of those 46 points scored by Ottawa, 36 of them came from Harris`arm.

Trevor Harris set the record for most touchdowns thrown in a CFL playoff game with 6 touchdown passes, as he led the Redblacks to a heart breaking loss in the Grey Cup.

As Redblacks` fans know, the 2019 free agency period hit Ottawa hard, as Trevor Harris signed with the Edmonton Eskimos, although for Harris everything has been great since his departure from Ottawa.

After being signed by Edmonton, Harris started the first twelve games of the 2019 season throwing for 3,706 passing yards and 15 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions. Since then, he has been battling a arm injury as he and the Eskimos look to cross-over for the 2019 CFL playoffs.

In the Redblacks and Eskimos matchup here in Ottawa last week, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Trevor Harris.

Trevor Harris Interview

Zlomislic: Throughout your career, you have had some great times, what would be your favorite football memory?

Harris: “I have won two grey cups, so those are the favorite moments, although the real favorite moments are the relationships I have made and the friendships I have because of football. I have so many bonds with teammates, and those are the things that will last forever.”

Zlomislic: Having spent 3 seasons in Ottawa, this is the first time back on the visitors side, what do you miss most about Ottawa?

Harris: “You know, I didn’t know how I was going to feel coming back and when I came back, as much as Edmonton feels like home, this (Ottawa) still feels like home to me, and its a great place to play football, I got a chance to talk to fans and the players I played with and I have realized that I miss it more than I thought I would’ve.”

Zlomislic: In the 3 seasons that you spent as a Redblacks quarterback, you saw first hand how great Ottawas fans are, and a few have been cheering you on in Edmonton, what do you have to say about RNATION?

Harris: “I couldn’t be more grateful for the fans that have continued to support me. The fans here in Ottawa are hard on the players, and they should be. They expect greatness and when you have a caliber team like they’ve had in the few years its just like that. To me its been phenomenal to have these fans still support me on a different team.”

Zlomislic: In the 2016 season, you and the Redblacks won the Grey Cup, what was this experience like for you?

Harris: “It was a lot of fun. As much as the Grey Cup was awesome, it was more about the bonds I created with guys on my team and its the first time I saw a two quarterback system work before. Hank and I both shared time, and for it to work was unreal how we got it done together. Its all about the relationships you make, the rings you get are cool, but they also tell a story, and the story contains all your friendships made within your team.”

Zlomislic: How would you describe the 2016 Grey Cup?

Harris: “It was up and down. When Hank went down in warmups it looked like I was going to go in for a little bit. It was kind of stressful situation but leaving with the win was awesome!”

Zlomislic: When you step onto the field, is there any certain quarterback you try and copy your game after?

Harris: “I know of a few guys that mimic some quarterbacks, but for me, I don’t, I just try and be me and do my best to get the ball in the end-zone.”

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