Kyle Myers | Ticats.ca Staff
HAMILTON -- If he’s not the first player you hear at a Ticats practice, he’s certainly the loudest.
Simoni Lawrence is like a character from a movie: his larger-than-life personality off the field somehow dwarfed by the vicious hits he delivers on it.
Lawrence was brought to Hamilton via trade in the offseason, acquired from the Edmonton Eskimos in a transaction which now feels more like grand theft, at least from the Ticats side of the table. Used mostly in rotation with the Eskimos, Lawrence has earned a starting role with the Ticats, rewarding Kent Austin with effort and enthusiasm which is simply unmatched.
|Learning from one of the best|
“JJ is a tremendous help to me, and everyone else. He’s a good mentor to have in the locker room. Myself being a younger player, he’s been around the CFL and lets me know things to look out for.”
- Ticats Simoni Lawrence on fellow linebacker Jamal Johnson
“(Simoni) plays with a great love of the game, and an enthusiasm that’s contagious,” said Austin, who orchestrated the trade for Lawrence two months after being named the Ticats new Head Coach and General Manager. “Leadership is your ability to influence, and Simoni’s influence is through those things.”
Lawrence is midway through just his second CFL season, although you wouldn’t know it based how vocal he is in practice or how effective he is on the field.
“He’s flying around out there, he’s hitting guys, and he’s got good instincts,” said Jamall Johnson, the Ticats’ defensive captain and one of the longest serving players on the roster. “He’s fast, man. I love seeing that guy run to the ball and smack people.”
Coming off perhaps his best game as a pro against the Stampeders, in which he tallied six tackles as well as an interception and a QB sack, Lawrence reserves much of the credit for those who have helped him grow this season.
“I have to give credit to my coaches, from Coach (Zamberlin) to Coach (Steinauer), they really inspire us to get better every week,” said Lawrence. “That’s what I’ve been doing, trying to improve in one thing every week so I can play a better game.”
But the highest of his praise was reserved for Johnson, who has seized his role as a leader in a season that has seen all but two defensive positions find different starters from last season.
“JJ is a tremendous help to me, and everyone else,” said Lawrence. “He’s a good mentor to have in the locker room. Myself being a younger player, he’s been around the CFL and lets me know things to look out for.”
“Just knowing that he’s beside you, in his gap, you know that you don’t have to do anybody’s job but your own."
Asked about his role as a mentor to younger of the Tiger-Cats, Johnson recalled his own experience as a young player in the CFL.
“When I came into the league I had some guys in BC – Otis Floyd, Carl Kidd, Barrin Simpson – that had been in the league a little while and they had a wealth of knowledge they didn’t mind sharing with me,” Johnson said. “I learned a lot from them, and I’m not afraid to share with these guys now because I know it’s going to make this team better.”
Despite playing just six games thus far in 2013 – the other five missed due to injuries sustained in practice – Lawrence ranks fourth on the Ticats with 27 tackles, and has recorded a forced fumble, an interception, and a quarterback sack. Considering all this success has come before his 25th birthday, Lawrence certainly appears on a trajectory for great success in the CFL.
“He’s like a lot of our other young guys,” said Austin. “He’s got it all in front of him.”