Stamps' Forzani gets help from Lewis

Wes Gilbertson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:23 PM ET

Johnny Forzani sought out all-star advice this off-season.

For a week-and-a-half, the Calgary Stampeders sophomore receiver tagged along with Nik Lewis in Texas, doubling as an instructor and student, as the star slotback trained a group of high school gridiron go-getters.

“Nik? He’s great. He’s like my older brother. He’s hard on me when he needs to be, and he gives me the compliments when I’m doing well,” Forzani said.

“He’s been really instrumental for me improving. In just a week-and-a-half with him in Dallas, I learned a lot. We watched a lot of film. Nik knows so much about the game, it’s scary. He’s like the Hines Ward of the CFL. With defences, he’s like Neo in the Matrix — he slows everything down. He knows exactly where to be, and with his physical and athletic capabilities, he really catches a lot of guys off-guard.

“Nik is the man.”

The Stamps, who officially kicked off training camp Sunday morning at McMahon Stadium, are searching for a replacement for retired pass-catcher Ryan Thelwell, and the 22-year-old Forzani wants to be that man. After missing a big chunk of his rookie season with injuries, Forzani will compete with fellow non-imports Jabari Arthur and first-rounder Anthony Parker for an increased role in the CFL club’s offensive playbook.

Lewis, who is living in the same condo building as the former Calgary Colts star this season, figures Forzani is on the right track.

“I helped with him with a few things, and he sees some things a little different,” Lewis said. “We worked on the mental mind-set, as far as coming in to camp and setting the standard and not just trying to get a role but to be a part of the offence.

“And ever since I came back, every time I walk into his condo, he’s always in his book. That’s big. That’s huge. He wants to know what he’s doing, and he wants to be better.”

Lewis isn’t the only one lending his expertise to the Stamps’ third-round pick in last year’s supplemental draft.

During the off-season, Forzani trained in Santa Monica, Calif., with several four-down footballs pros, including St. Louis Rams receiver Brandon Gibson and former Stamps and current Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner.

And after Sunday’s first training camp session, he was taking tips from his father, Tom, the Stamps’ second-leading all-time receiver and a guy whose name is on the Wall of Fame at McMahon Stadium.

Those are big footsteps to follow, but the younger Forzani seems to embrace the challenge.

“I just want to be an effective part of our offence. I want a big role, and I want to show them that I’m capable of playing a big role,” Forzani said. “I started playing football at 18 — I didn’t play in high school — and I’ve had to take steps fast, and I’ve had to improve fast. Now, I really feel like I’m starting to get a better hang of it.

“And the thing is, because it’s still relatively new for me, I’ve got the hunger. I just want to run routes all day, get better, throw as much as I can, do jug machine work, watch film, get into meetings with the coaches, learn more about the game, ask questions …

“I’m like a little kid.”

With a very talented ‘older brother.’

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca 


Videos

Photos