CALGARY - In the immediate aftermath of seeing Calgary Stampeders slotback Nik Lewis score three touchdowns and leap over two defenders for a first down, the leader on the other side of the ball made a bold declaration.
“Some people might say it’s too early but (Lewis) gets my MOP award,” wrote Stamps middle linebacker Juwan Simpson on his Twitter feed.
“Just watch him work! Good work chunk!”
If anyone was expecting the burly slotback from Texas to slow down heading into his ninth CFL season, they have to eat their words a month into the campaign.
In four games, Lewis has six touchdowns — he had five all of last season — and during Friday’s thrilling come-from-behind 41-38 overtime victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the biggest highlight might be ‘The Hurdle.’
It’s a move defenders have to know is coming by now, but even a veteran like Riders all-Canadian safety James Patrick fell for it.
This time, Lewis doubled up the fun, as Tyron Brackenridge also grabbed air when reaching for the 30-year-old’s legs.
“Then they should start going up high,” said Lewis, who has a few highlights of steamrolling those who do. “I guess it’s a double negative. For DBs, I’m going to be punishing them. I wish they would hit me up high. It would be easier on my knees.”
Lewis came into this season without a contract for 2013, which is an unusual situation for him. For years, he was locked up long-term.
Whether it’s pending free agency or simply because he’s the last remaining receiver from the 2008 Grey Cup champion team, he’s playing with a motivation and determination like he’s never had before.
That’s saying something considering he’s piled up eight straight 1,000-yard seasons.
If he continues this pace, though, he would set career-highs in all categories. After three games, he’s on pace for 144 receptions, 1,629 yards and 27 TDs.
Those sound like Most Outstanding Player numbers.
“It’s probably a little early to be talking about the MVP,” said Stamps receivers coach Pete Costanza. “But he would rather us win games and us get into the Grey Cup than him being MVP.
“I’m real proud of the way he’s playing. He’s playing hard. He has a different focus this year than in years past.
“It’s not like it was bad before. It’s just different. He knows he’s one of the lone vets. He knows he needs to step up and play and not have fun doing bobsled dances. This is a more mature Nik Lewis.”
Clearly, he’s the leader of this receiving corps. Fellow pass-catcher Marquay McDaniel remarked on Twitter that “we feed off him.”
With 98 yards on seven receptions, Lewis moved into 22nd place on the CFL’s all-time list at 9,594, just 406 away from being the 16th player to hit the 10,000-yard mark.
Even with all those yards on his legs, Lewis is having the best start of his career.
“By far — just in my all-around game,” Lewis said. “This is an incredible start. This is what I work for in the off-season. I prepared myself for this.”
As for the MVP talk, Lewis takes it in stride.
In 2011, he was the team’s nominee for Most Outstanding Player for the first time. It won’t be his last time.
“I can’t control what people say,” Lewis said. “All I can do is continue to work hard, be a good teammate and lead by example.”