Simoni Lawrence unfazed by pressure to end Hamilton’s league-worst Grey Cup drought

Photo courtesy: Alex Lupul/

Expectations for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2021 are sky-high with the team listed as the heavy favourites to win the Grey Cup at Bodog Canada.

Veteran linebacker Simoni Lawrence is aware of the pressure surrounding his team, but doesn’t feel it’s all that different than any other year.

“I feel like with any job like this you’re gonna have pressure,” said Lawrence in a videoconference. “This is a high-performance business and that’s just the way it is.”

Hamilton is set to host the Grey Cup in December for this first time since 1996 when Toronto and Edmonton played an unforgettable game in the snow. It was the third and final Grey Cup played at Ivor Wynne Stadium, while this year’s game will be the first ever held at Tim Hortons Field.

“I feel like with the culture that we have here, we just take everything one practice at a time and one game at a time,” said Lawrence. “It’s hard not to see the Grey Cup in Hamilton but I think that our main focus is just going to be every day — day one, day two, day three, then game day — until we get the opportunity to get a shot at the Grey Cup.”

Hamilton set a new franchise record for most single-season wins in 2019, finishing the year at 15-3. The team beat Edmonton easily in the East Final but lost to the underdog Blue Bombers in the Grey Cup by a score of 33-12.

Winnipeg’s victory ended their league-worst championship drought at 29 years, passing the dubious distinction on to Hamilton. The Tiger-Cats last won the Grey Cup in 1999 when Danny McManus led the team to a 32-21 victory over the Calgary Stampeders at BC Place Stadium.

Lawrence is one of Hamilton’s longest-tenured players, having been acquired via trade from Edmonton in 2013. He was named a CFL all-star in 2019 after recording 98 tackles, four sacks, and three interceptions in fifteen regular season games.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.