Simoni Lawrence feels snubbed for CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award: ‘if it was based on production, then it’s not even close’

Photo courtesy: Ryan McCullough/

Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence has never won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award and he’s accepted the politics playing into it.

Lawrence has earned the East Division’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player honour in back-to-back seasons, but lost out at the league level to Winnipeg Blue Bombers both times, Willie Jefferson and Adam Bighill respectively.

“I just understand people vote on their people. The media have people they like and that’s just the way it is. It’s not based on production because if it was based on production, then it’s not even close,” Lawrence said.

“I can’t be surprised this year because in 2019 there wasn’t a more productive defensive player in the league than me. So how can I be shocked? It is what it is. Those awards are given to people that are liked by the media and that’s how it is.”

During the 2019 season, Lawrence led the CFL with 117 defensive plays made and 98 tackles while knocking down seven passes, notching four quarterbacks sacks, four tackles for loss, tying a career-high with three interceptions and recovering one fumble in 15 games.

In 2021, Lawrence made 85 defensive plays, 73 tackles, four quarterback sacks, three knock downs, three interceptions and tied for the league lead with two pick-sixes in 14 starts as the leader of the Ticats defence.

The 32-year-old has played eight seasons with the black and gold. He holds the franchise record for total career tackles with 609 and sits 17th in league history with 617 defensive tackles. Lawrence is a pending free agent, but wants to extend his stay in the Steel City.

“I love Hamilton… my agent gets mad at me every time that I say that I want to come back because he feels like he could get some more money elsewhere,” Lawrence said.

“This is what I bleed, this is who I love. If I’m playing football in Canada, this is where I want to be — Hamilton’s just a place full with love.”

Despite suffering his fourth loss in a Grey Cup with the Tiger-Cats, Lawrence has been feeling the love from the city. Hamilton has been beaten by Saskatchewan, Calgary and Winnipeg twice in the CFL title game and have the longest big silver trophy drought in the league.

“It all hurts still, but there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself because the ultimate goal is still right there. You never really forget it, 2013 you still feel it, 2014 you still feel it, 2019 you still think about it and this is the same thing, but it’s all lessons,” Lawrence said.

“Next year is like: ‘What’s up?’ Everybody wants to accomplish the same goal and as long as you’re a productive football player, put yourself in a position to have an opportunity to go after the goal again, you understand that you have a chance to erase the hurt.”

The six-foot-one, 231-pound Lawrence wants to return and capture the cup with the Ticats in the future.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.