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There’s always a lot of noise around Nik Lewis.
The Calgary Stampeder slotback creates some of the sound himself either through his antics on the field or his comments off it. His actions often draw static from opposition players and fans.
But Lewis says what you see in public isn’t the man he really is.
“When I step on the football field, or step in an atmosphere like this, I am an entertainer,” Lewis told reporters this week as the Stampeders prepared for Sunday’s 100th Grey Cup game.
“When I’m off the field I’m something different.”
“I’m boring,” said the 30-year-old from Mineral Wells, Tex. “I watch General Hospital every day.
“I don’t do anything too exciting.”
Lewis will be one of the Calgary receivers the Toronto Argonaut defence must contend with when they face the Stampeders at Rogers Centre.
He finished the regular season fourth among CFL receivers with 100 catches for 1,241 yards and 13 touchdowns. It was the ninth consecutive year Lewis has gone over 1,000 yards receiving.
On the field Lewis makes his own excitement. At five-foot-10 and 205 pounds he looks like a soft drink machine with legs. After a catch he’s a bruising runner with the athletic ability to hurdler a tackler.
Lewis can irritate fans and opponents with his after-catch celebrations. He’ll wave his arms in the air or throw his head back and yell.
The controversy can extend after the game. Lewis doesn’t hesitate to fire verbal blasts at other teams.
After the Stampeders beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western Semi-Final Lewis told reporters the B.C. Lions “don’t want to see us” and “were probably sitting around singing Kumbaya when Saskatchewan scored there at the end of the game, thinking it was over.”
Prior to the Western Final Lewis sent a tasteless tweet referring to the 1995 murder trial of former NFL player O. J. Simpson. He was fined by the CFL for violating its social media policy.
Lewis donated his paycheque from the B.C. game to a women’s shelter in Calgary. He still was painted as insensitive and someone who condoned violence against women.
The accusations stung.
“I won’t say it doesn’t affect me but it does when you try to attack my character, when you don’t know me,” he said.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of women and violence in the past, through my mother. So for people to say I support women’s violence is very wrong. It was a joke.”
Lewis sees himself no different than a comedian who sometimes bombs with a bad joke, or an actor whose performance isn’t always understood by critics.
“I do this to entertain,” he said. “When I tweet, when I do things, when I say things, it’s all about entertainment for me.
“I’m not about anything serious. I’m not a serious person. I try to deal with the pain through laughter. That’s the way I approach it. A lot of people talk about my celebrations and things like that, how cocky a person I am. That’s not who I am. That’s what I have to do, that’s the mindset I have to be in, to be who I am on the field, to create the level of intensity that I need.”
Asking Lewis to change his act would be like telling Donald Trump to get a new haircut. It’s all part of the image.
“It really helps because I think it gives me an edge,” he said. “I have to go to a place that allows me to really go out and be physical and dominate somebody.
“Off the field I’m kind and caring and giving.”
Lewis’ teammates seem to accept him, if not totally understand him.
“Nik is a little outspoken,” said offensive lineman Dimitri Tsoumpas. “I think it comes with the territory.
“He comes to work every day. He practices hard. He’s a leader in the locker room. Sometimes he takes things a little too far. He kind of steps outside the boundaries a little. He does everything else that makes him a complete player.”
J’Micheal Deane chuckled when asked about Lewis.
“He’s a good guy,” said the offensive lineman. “When we’re getting ready for a game he gets in his all-serious mode. You see a different side of him.
“Off the field he’s a joker, wants to have fun.”
One of the Argos Lewis is likely to bump helmets with is linebacker Brandon Isaac. The two were teammates in Calgary before Isaac joined Toronto as a free agent. They can take trash talking to a new level.
“Me and Nik have been battling each other for two years, every day in practice, so it is just something we do,” said Isaac.
“He knows when he puts on the pads and I see him and we make eye contact, it is a lot of words.”
There is also a physical history between the two. Isaac was fined in August for hits he made on Lewis and Stampeder running back Jon Cornish.
Lewis has seen Isaac’s game improve.
“I’ve seen so much growth in him this year on the field,” Lewis said. “He has come a long way, even from the beginning of the season.
“Last year I used to mess with him because he used to miss sacks and drop picks. This year he is making those plays.”
Lewis was a member of the 2008 Calgary team that defeated the Montreal Alouettes 25-19 in front of a partisan crowd at Olympic Stadium. He sees a parallel to this game, where the Argonauts will be playing at home.
“We’re in a dome, fighting a hostile crowd,” he said. “Nobody gave us a shot in Montreal but I think people will give us a shot this week.
“It’s all about us. We’re not worried about anything going on outside. It’s all about what we are going to do on the field.”
And maybe how much noise Lewis makes.