Simoni Lawrence hasn’t just been outstanding in 2019 — he’s been tremendous.
Lawrence has stuffed the stat sheet for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this season, posting a career-high 98 tackles in 15 games.
The 30-year-old made headlines in June when he hit the head of quarterback Zach Collaros, which cost Lawrence two games while serving a suspension. He would go on to record 17 tackles against Winnipeg in late September, setting a new CFL mark for the most in a single game.
All season long, Lawrence clawed offensive players to the turf and wreaked havoc on the opposition. He made 117 defensive plays — adding seven knockdowns, four tackles for loss, four quarterback sacks and three interceptions to his tackle total.
Versatility allows the Ticats to use Lawrence in multiple ways. He can play in the box as a traditional linebacker, rush the passer on a blitz, cover receivers, move well in space and play safety in various schemes. It’s hard for the offence to pinpoint what Lawrence could be doing from snap to snap.
Lawrence has played in two Grey Cups, been an all-star three times (once at the league level), made 526 tackles, and was named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2015 (though Adam Bighill beat him out for the CFL distinction). He talks trash while being one of the most visible, accessible and likeable players in franchise history.
Head coach Orlondo Steinauer has encouraged Lawrence to be himself and the natural energy he walks around with has been passed around to his teammates even more since Kent Austin left Hamilton. Lawrence is the captain and unquestioned emotional leader of the Ticats’ defence.
It’s a unit that allowed a league-low 17.9 offensive points per game this season. Stingy ‘D’ has always been a staple of the great Steeltown teams. Joe Montford and Calvin Tiggle are the most recent example from the 1999 Grey Cup team, with Ja’Gared Davis and Lawrence serving as respectable comparisons for 2019.
Davis recorded more tackles and sacks than Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end Willie Jefferson, though Lawrence beat out his teammate for the Most Outstanding Defensive Player nod. Jefferson had a spectacular season leading the league in pass knockdowns (16) and forced fumbles (6) to go along with 12 sacks, but there were times when the freak defender grew quiet in big games.
Steinauer tells people to turn on the tape and the eye in the sky proves Lawrence is the best player on the best defence in the league. That’s the definition of a Most Outstanding Defensive Player.