Without much fanfare, Nik Lewis became the CFL’s all-time leading pass catcher this season. It was a headline that was too quiet and somehow got buried. In fact, the Alouettes didn’t even stop the game or celebrate the accomplishment until the game was over. But if you’ve ever met the man or seen the Texas native play or read his after-game quotes, you know that he’s anything but quiet.
Prior to his 3DownNation Grey Cup work, I spent a few minutes on the phone with Nik without any preconceived topics or structure in mind. I wanted to let Nik go full-on Nik, and it was great. Here are some of the entertaining highlights.
You’ve played for Calgary and Montreal, but been to all CFL cities. As you wind down your career, what is your favourite city to visit?
It used to be Montreal. I loved to play at Molson Stadium. The atmosphere was incredible. You had the old hospital in the background and they always played that Put your hands up in the air song.
As a city it’s Vancouver. I love visiting there.
Do you have a favourite eatery in Canada?
Oh yeah, Zen 8 Grill in Calgary. Last year we spent eight days in Calgary and I think I ate at Zen 8 like seven times. I always take guys there. And now I get texts from others who bring their guys there. Duron Carter takes some of the Riders there.
This season couldn’t have been easy for you, despite setting the receptions record. Do you feel like you can still play in this league?
Through the first nine games I was on pace for another 1,000-yard season. Then I set the record and it was like I wasn’t really wanted anymore. So it was frustrating. I know I can still play at a high level.
What about being a player coach? Is that something that you’d be open to?
I am open to anything. But the idea of a player coach is complicated. You can offer a fellow wide receiver tips and tell him not to do something. But if you yourself go out there and make the same mistake it can be a tough situation. I’ve played this game long enough to command the respect from other players to be a player coach, but it’s definitely a tricky balance to pull off successfully.
Will you play in 2018?
Let me put it to you this way, if I play in 2018 it’ll be with the Alouettes. It’s up to the new coach to decide if he wants me. If not, I could be the receivers coach.
You didn’t play in the playoffs, but who were you rooting for the most?
Kevin Glenn. He was my favourite quarterback to catch passes from. Kevin is one of the most supportive teammates I’ve ever played with. He’s gone through a lot in his 17 years and no one works harder. The way that he helped and supported both Drew Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell while in Calgary was impressive. I wanted love to see him win the Grey Cup this season.
What do you like about how the CFL markets the game?
I really like the CFL Week initiative. The league has to do these fan-friendly types of activities. I applaud them for this event happening in Winnipeg next spring. But we can do more. We have to continue to make the teams and players relatable to the fans, at all levels. We have to adopt new things to bring in the new generation. So I’d love to see initiatives at both the high school and college levels, both to attract fans and future Canadian born players.
In your opinion, what’s an example of the type of messaging that you’d like to see the league get across?
There’s this notion that players in the NFL who make more money are much better than CFL players. It’s simply not true. Sometimes the margin between a CFL and NFL player is very slim. The league needs to emphasize the skill level of CFL players to the fans.
How can the league attract and retain more highly skilled football players?
I would love to see the league help the top five to ten players in the league secure well-paying marketing deals. I think it’s something that’s very important to sustaining the future of the league.
Players are always going to try and make it in the NFL over the CFL. Why do you think some CFL players can make the transition and others can’t?
I think there are a couple of reasons why some guys go down south and make it, and some don’t. Sometimes, when the skill is even it’s the player’s mind frame that can set him apart from the rest. You have to go in with the mentality that you’re going to be a difference-maker, that you’re better than everyone else. It also helps if you can do a few things on the field. You can’t be one-dimensional.
What was your favourite part about covering the Grey Cup for 3Downnation?
That it was in Ottawa. The last time the Grey Cup was in Ottawa was in 2004, my first year in the league. I attended the weekend and picked up my Rookie of the Year award. The game that year was between B.C. and Toronto. So it was definitely a trip down memory lane with things coming full circle.
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