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updated: 11/23/2013 5:13 PM

2 ex-Bears QBs lead Hamilton to Grey Cup game

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  • Hamilton Tiger-Cats Dan LeFevour, a former star at Benet Academy, is tackeld by two Montreal Alouettes players. LeFevour is a backup QB with Hamilton and may play in Sunday's CFL Grey Cup game.

      Hamilton Tiger-Cats Dan LeFevour, a former star at Benet Academy, is tackeld by two Montreal Alouettes players. LeFevour is a backup QB with Hamilton and may play in Sunday's CFL Grey Cup game.
    AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Andrew Vaughan

  • Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris, who once played for the Chicago Bears, cheers teammates during their practice Saturday. The Saskatchewan Roughriders play the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 101st Grey Cup on Sunday.

      Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris, who once played for the Chicago Bears, cheers teammates during their practice Saturday. The Saskatchewan Roughriders play the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 101st Grey Cup on Sunday.
    AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz

 
By Mike Wilkening
wilkening.michael@gmail.com

For Bears fans looking for something to watch after Sunday's game against St. Louis, Sunday's Grey Cup game might provide a trip down memory lane.

Two former Bears quarterbacks have played key roles for the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who face the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the league title on Sunday afternoon (5 p.m., NBC Sports Network).

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The Ticats' starting quarterback, Henry Burris, appeared in six games for the Bears in 2002. The Ticats' top backup, meanwhile, is Benet Academy product and Bears 2010 sixth-round pick Dan LeFevour, who sees playing time off the bench for East Division champion Hamilton.

Now 38, Burris has had a long, productive CFL career, throwing for more than 50,000 yards and rushing for more than 5,000 yards in 15 seasons.

The 26-year-old LeFevour, by contrast, is just in his second CFL campaign, and he has primarily made his mark as a rushing threat. LeFevour played a major role in Hamilton's Nov. 10 overtime playoff win vs. Toronto, rushing for 61 yards on 18 carries and scoring the game-winning touchdown in a 19-16 triumph in windy conditions in Guelph, Ontario.

"He's just a highly competitive, very focused, very unselfish quarterback that is a winner," Hamilton coach Kent Austin said of LeFevour after the victory.

After the game-winning touchdown, some of LeFevour's teammates hoisted their backup quarterback into the air in celebration.

"I was telling them to put me down actually," LeFevour said afterward, smiling. He added: "This is a team game today. I really feel like I was just a small piece of that. Everyone put their two cents in today."

The following week, Burris starred in the East Division final at Toronto, throwing for 371 yards and 3 TDs in a 36-24 Hamilton victory. He also added 51 yards rushing on 5 carries.

"He's a 38-year-old, but he plays like he's 28," said Matt Dunigan, a CFL analyst for The Sports Network, a Canadian television station.

A former CFL quarterback, Dunigan believes that the younger LeFevour has helped keep Burris' "energy bar maximized" by taking a few snaps here and there.

LeFevour, like Burris, has long used his mobility to his advantage. At Benet, LeFevour rushed for 634 yards as a senior and scored 29 career TDs on the ground. At Central Michigan, he was a prolific dual threat, becoming the first player in NCAA history to reach 12,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing.

The Bears waived LeFevour after his first summer with the club. He would spend the rest of his rookie season as the Bengals' third quarterback. In 2011, he had stints with the Bengals, Colts and Jaguars, spending six games at season's end on Jacksonville's roster. The Jaguars released LeFevour in May 2012. Less than a month later, he signed with Hamilton, spending the season on the roster but not accumulating any statistics.

Now, on Sunday, he could very well see playing time in the CFL's championship game for Hamilton, which is seeking its first Grey Cup win since 1999.

Longer-term, it remains to be seen whether LeFevour can earn a starting spot in a league that has just nine such jobs. Dunigan believes LeFevour has been "groomed" to be a starter with Hamilton, but he notes that LeFevour must show he can make the necessary throws and run a full playbook instead of a package of plays.

Fellow TSN analyst Chris Schultz, in an email message to the Daily Herald, noted that LeFevour "has demonstrated pure conventional quarterback skills" but whether he's a starter "still is an unknown."

However, as Schultz sees it, LeFevour "has a good future in CFL football."

In some ways, the future is now for LeFevour, who had multiple rushes in nine straight games for the Ticats. Should Bears fans tune into the Grey Cup on Sunday, the odds are pretty high than an ex-Bears quarterback will be handling the ball for Hamilton.

• Mike Wilkening has covered the NFL for more than a decade. You can read his work at Pro Football Talk, The Linemakers at Sporting News and NBC New York, among other publications. He can be followed on Twitter @mikewilkening. Email him at wilkening.michael@gmail.com.

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