Bombers rookie Kelvin McKnight starts in place of suspended Kenny Lawler

Photo courtesy: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will start rookie receiver Kelvin McKnight in place of the suspended Kenny Lawler.

Lawler is currently the CFL’s leading receiver with 45 receptions for 703 yards and four touchdowns. He set new career-highs in Winnipeg’s victory over the B.C. Lions in Week 9, making 12 receptions for 205 yards and one touchdown in a 30-9 win. He was arrested for impaired driving on Monday morning and won’t play in Week 10 against the Edmonton Elks.

That left a spot for McKnight to draw into the lineup. The 24-year-old signed with the blue and gold on June 15. He spent the last two years with the Denver Broncos after signing as an undrafted NFL free agent.

“Kelvin McKnight’s ability to learn and be multiple as well as his explosiveness and his hands were very noticeable,” head coach Mike O’Shea. “He caught the ball wherever he was, he was right more often than not for a young guy learning a new system and he’s explosive.”

McKnight had a sensational college career at Samford University. He had 243 receptions for 3,248 yards and 23 touchdowns, including 100 catches for 1,453 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. He was a 2017 All-American and 2017 first team All-Southern Conference, a 2016 second team All-SoCon and was the 2015 SoCon Freshman of the Year.

The five-foot-nine, 189-pound pass catcher has played three games in his rookie season in Canada, recording 10 receptions for 71 yards with Winnipeg. Friday night at IG Field will be his first career start in the CFL.

“It’s always a blessing and you can’t ever take an opportunity for granted — I’m pretty confident,” McKnight said. “It’s not like I wasn’t confident before, but you get a little bit more comfortable as you get more reps and games under your belt.”