Stamps receiver keeps wowin' coach

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 PM ET

CALGARY - Pete Costanza was racing from his perch in the coaches’ box to the locker-room and missed the Calgary Stampeders’ highlight-reel Hail Mary.

When he watched film of Nik Lewis’ 64-yard touchdown just moments before halftime in last week’s win over the Edmonton Eskimos, he was hardly surprised.

Now in his fourth season as the Stamps’ receivers coach, Costanza has witnessed countless gotta-see-it-to-believe-it grabs from Lewis.

“You’ll see him sometimes in practice, where he could make a catch with two hands, and he goes and one-hand stabs it. When we’re warming up with ball drills, I’ve seen him — more than once — catch a ball between his legs,” Costanza said. “So he does some goofy things that when the bullets are flying full speed, it allows him to make those plays. He just has tremendous hand-eye coordination.

“I’ll tell him, ‘Nik, don’t one-hand it. Put two hands in it.’ And he’ll say, ‘Oh, Pete, I’m just trying to make a catch. I’m just trying to see something.’ He definitely works on it. He makes a conscious effort and the bar has been raised for him on the type of plays he can make and the catches he can make.”

It’s hard to believe the bar could go much higher.

The Stamps’ star slotback has made diving catches. He’s made grabs with one hand.

Once the ball is in his mitts, he’s been known to hurdle would-be tacklers or, even better, just roll right over them.

No Eskimos defenders were injured in the wreckage, but Lewis’ touchdown last week at Commonwealth Stadium was a definite backbreaker in Calgary’s 30-20 victory over their provincial rivals.

Eskimos defensive back Chris Thompson got his fingertips on that last-second pass, but the ball deflected to Lewis and he side-stepped into the endzone.

“He’s just got that innate ability when the ball is in the air or near him to track it down and make a play. He’s always had that ability,” Costanza said. “If there’s a guy on him, I always have full confidence that he’s going to make a play. On that one, with the tip at the end, he just did a great job of tracking the ball and staying with it. Just doing his job. He was the guy to play the tip if there was a tip, and he did what he was supposed to do.

“That’s what he does — he makes plays.”

That’s no fluke, either.

During a special-teams session in Wednesday’s practice, Lewis shagged passes from backup quarterback Drew Tate on the sidelines.

“Anytime I can get some catches, just to get the feel of the ball, that’s always a good thing,” he shrugged. “The ball is easy to catch if you catch it a lot.”

He’s certainly been making it look easy.

Heading into Saturday’s date with the B.C. Lions at McMahon Stadium, Lewis ranks fourth in the CFL with 757 receiving yards in 10 games.

The 29-year-old must be among the leaders in Costanza’s grading system, too.

“I judge all the guys on what I’ve seen them do,” Costanza said. “There’ll be times where he goes to make a catch one-handed and he won’t get it, and I’ll give him a drop. With somebody else, I might not give a drop to, but he’s set the bar. He has really put the bar at a high level, so I’ve gotta hold him to it now.”


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