January 8, 2018

Burning For Redemption

He led his squad with 1,202 receiving yards and hauled in what was likely the catch of the year on a hot summer night in Hamilton. Yet, you would never know it based on how Bryan Burnham is tackling his preparation for 2018. Never one to give up on a target that seems out of reach, the Tulsa product and three-year member of the BC Lions is ready to put the disappointing 7-11 campaign behind him.

“Big time,” he said during a holiday break in Oklahoma.

“Especially for me personally, because even though I reached some of the goals I set for myself it wasn’t good enough to get us into the playoffs. I know I have to train that much harder and get that much better to make it happen this season. That is something that I am going to really focus on, doing whatever it takes to make that happen.”

 

Like many others inside and outside the organization, Burnham believes the hiring of GM Ed Hervey is a major coup that will go a long way in helping the franchise accomplish the ultimate goal of getting back to, and winning, the Grey Cup. Burnham received a great review on Hervey from an old friend and one-time division rival with the Edmonton Eskimos.

“From what I hear about Ed, he is a great guy. My former college teammate Dexter McCoil spoke very highly of him. I am excited to have him here,” Burnham explained.

“I thought it was a great move because it takes some stress off Wally; not having to do both jobs. He can focus on coaching.”

Changes are the nature of the pro football business, especially when you miss the playoffs for the first time in over two decades. New offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson is one that intrigues Burnham, even after the release of one of his best mentors in Khari Jones.

“I don’t know much about Jarious, other than what he has done the last couple of years in Saskatchewan. I know he was a pretty good quarterback here in BC for a few years,” number 16 said.

“It’s definitely hard to see Khari go. He was one of the guys that brought me in here and gave me a shot, but you can’t dwell on that. I’m excited about this new regime. 2017 did not go as expected so changes have to be made. I’m looking forward to it because Saskatchewan had a good offence as last season went on. Jarious knows what he’s doing.”

New receivers coach and passing game coordinator Markus Howell will also inject some new fuel into an offence that should once again have loads of potential and expectations. A big reason for that is the fact Emmanuel Arceneaux is back for another season in orange. When talking about the return of The Manny Show, Burnham can hardly contain his excitement.

“That was my number one concern going into the offseason because you can’t let a guy like Manny go. We would hate that game on our schedule,” Burnham explained.

“It was good to lock him up and you know a few teams around the league are a little worried now. This new team 100 is back together so it definitely feels good.”

The pair will actually get together for a week of training sessions in Texas this month. That should tell you all you need to know about their commitment to winning and responsibility they know they are taking on with the organization during this period of transition, on and off the field.

“We’re getting a lot closer. I just finished my fourth year as a teammate with him and I have learned a lot from him over the past year,” Burnham said.

“I think it would be wise to go down there to get a week of training in with him. We’re only about five hours apart so I figured I have to get down there and put some work in.”

Training and preparing are not the only big events on his offseason calendar. Burnham and his fiancée’ Aubrey Wong will officially tie the knot on April 7th.

The future Mrs. Burnham has also made Vancouver her home during football season, and the Lions’ leading receiver says she deserves a large portion of the credit for his continued success. She plans to pursue a career in interior design.

“It’s a big sacrifice for her, after just graduating from college and moving away from her family and friends to come up to Vancouver,” Burnham explained.

“She’s kind of banking on me that I will continue to be successful and succeed in this league. People take it for granted, it’s not always guaranteed. The fact that she would take a chance with me is definitely a great feeling.”

Before training camp they will enjoy a honeymoon in Greece. The history junkie can’t wait.

“It was both of our top choices. She’s looking at the beach aspect and I am more of a history guy. I’m looking forward to going to Athens and checking that all out,” he said.

You never know. It may be the first of multiple rings in his near future.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com