The friendship between the CFL quarterbacks will continue regardless of the outcome of Sunday's Grey Cup game between Darian Durant's Saskatchewan Roughriders and Henry Burris's Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Mosaic Stadium (5:30 p.m., TSN, CJWW). Durant will still talk to Burris if the Riders win the Grey Cup. Burris will do the same if it's the Tiger-Cats emerging as the victors.
"Hank and I go way back, of course,'' Durant said in advance of the 101st Grey Cup game. "We chatted a couple of times this year. The thing we talked about was setting the tone for the future. It's not about us. It's about the future of the black quarterbacks in this league and the opportunities that we weren't given 15, 20 years ago. Hopefully, we can be pioneers, being able to show guys that they can play quarterback, be successful and play for championships.'' Durant knows the CFL has welcomed black quarterbacks for many years.
"For us, it's to keep it going and to keep playing at a high level,'' Durant said. "(Henry) and I being in this Grey Cup says a lot about where we've come from and where we are going.'' Burris added that those conversations often included discussions about being a CFL quarterback and playing the position with the Roughriders. Burris spent portions of three seasons with the Riders from 2000 through 2004 until signing with the Calgary Stampeders as a free agent for the 2005 season. Durant joined the Riders in 2006 and has been the No. 1 quarterback since 2009.
"You're under a lot of scrutiny, especially being the quarterback in this market,'' Burris said. "Look at this year. Even though the team was winning and had one of the best starts in league history, (Durant) was still under a lot of scrutiny. I can understand the frustrations he deals with. Regardless, he still stepped on the field and he helped his team win.'' There are similarities between the CFL careers of Durant and Burris. Burris was a backup quarterback in Calgary's 26-24 win over the Tiger-Cats in the 1998 Grey Cup game. It took until 2008 for Burris to actually win his first Grey Cup game though. That took place when the Stampeders defeated the Alouettes 22-14, after which Burris was named the most valuable player after completing 28-of-37 pass attempts for 328 yards and a touchdown and interception. He also rushed for a game-high 79 yards on nine carries.
"When you're out there playing, you're shedding more blood, sweat and tears than as a backup,'' said the 38-year-old Burris.
"It definitely means more to have a primary effect on your team winning a championship. As a backup, you have more of a secondary effect.'' In 2007, Durant was third on the depth chart behind Kerry Joseph and Marcus Crandell when the Riders beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19 in the Grey Cup game. Durant appreciated the opportunity to share in the Grey Cup journey, but he's motivated by his pursuit of a championship ring as the Riders' No. 1 quarterback.
"Quarterbacks are measured off of championships," Durant, 31, told reporters earlier this week.
"To finally be able to get it would mean the world to me. You want to go down in history as one of the greats and in order to do that you have to have a championship on your resume. That's what it's all about for me.'' Burris understands what league titles mean on any list of a quarterback's accomplishments.