ULLRICH: Awe driven to make Lions return

It may have been a byproduct of frustration or fiscal reality but Micah Awe’s aha moment came when he was in his car working on behalf of Whole Foods in Chicago Monday.

A little more than 24 hours later, Awe returned to resume his career with the B.C. Lions.

The 24-year-old has an engineering degree from Texas Tech and his first season in the CFL could only be registered as a success. But his attempt to parlay his rookie year into anything amounting to a legitimate tryout failed miserably. Awe was just another reject of the NFL monolith that swallows up the keen and spits them out.

If there was anything more humbling in store for him than maintaining his status as an Uber driver and working deliveries for Amazon any longer, Awe wasn’t about to find out.

It was typical of Awe last season to suggest he wanted to eventually become the next president of Exxon, and he was no different Tuesday upon passing his physical, if not for a little thing called life that got in the way in between.

When he becomes the next Jerry Jones, life in Awe’s world will be much different, he said, but for the time being it has reached a point where the linebacker best make a name for himself as he did last season when he hit opponents, and with force.

“Personally, I have a plan that if I become a billionaire things will change,” Awe said when asked if he got a fair chance to make it in the NFL. “I got an engineering degree and I can’t get an engineering job. What am I supposed to tell them? That the Lions could call in six months?

“It could have been worse but when you think about what I did to myself I chose to be in this situation. It was an eye opening experience for a guy from suburban Dallas. All of a sudden I’m on the streets of Chicago doing Uber. I’d never been in that situation but I had to pay rent. I’m not going to ask my parents for handouts.

“At the same time I’m not here to be a football player. I’m here to be Micah Awe. I don’t plan on being in one of the best cities in the world in Vancouver just to sit here and be a football player. Athletes are more than just athletes. I can use football to help people in so many ways.”

If he’s half as good on the field as he speaks the Lions defence surely is about to get better.

He’ll at least last here longer than he did with the New York Jets, who cut Awe three days after this year’s draft. Not even becoming training camp fodder was a hard lesson, as Awe got the Lions to let him out of his CFL contract two years early, drawing a fine by the league. But there was never any uncertainty as to whether he would be welcomed back.

He’s not the only player on the Lions with a similar story, not even the only linebacker who thought he approached his career right only to be put on the discard pile.

“It’s a hard gig. The odds are against you but there’s nothing you can control,” said Abbotsford product Bo Lokombo, who also went to a quality NCAA program at Oregon, then kicked around a handful of NFL clubs between gigs with the Lions.

Lokombo has Awe’s weak-side spot for the moment, working with import Dyshawn Davis. Now the Lions must try to figure a way to get him on the field. The roster spot was easy. He effectively replaces defensive end Gabe Knapton, a profound disappointment as a rotational pass rusher and the end of a highly forgettable trade with Montreal for Chris Williams.

Awe may or may not get on the field Saturday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, depending on his fitness level at his first practice Wednesday. That should be enough time for Awe to forget about the past, and look forward to helping achieve world peace.

LIONS TALES: B.C.’s offence will also be forced to make another change this week. In addition to taking two crucial offside penalties in the loss to Toronto, receiver Shaq Johnson also suffered a broken rib and will yield his roster spot to import Ricky Collins, who is ready to return.

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.