This season will probably be the last for eighth all-time leading receiver Nik Lewis. Probably.
The outgoing receiver is ready to close the door on his 14-year career but can’t avoid leaving it open just a crack. You know, just in case.
That means don’t expect any farewell tour like Kobe or Jeter or Big Papi.
“Yeah, that’s why I signed the two-year deal. You never know what’s going to happen,” said Lewis. “If I go out and play very well and do what I’m supposed to do, I feel confident it’ll be my last year.
“But you never know. You go down and lose a Grey Cup or lose in the Eastern Final, it’s like . . . why not try it again?”
Nik Lewis takes on former Argos defender Cory Greenwood after catching a pass in 2016 (Photo: Dominick Gravel/Montreal Alouettes)
It’s a good question for the third-year Alouette, who’s spent a decade and a half answering critics and questions such as how, at age 34, he could have one of the best seasons of his career, setting a personal best in receptions (102, fourth in the league) and eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the 10th time (1,136 yards).
Or even the way a 5-foot-10, 240-pound receiver, who some joke looks more like a guard, can be one of the most successful players at his position in CFL history.
It appears that Lewis, who turns 35 on June 3, has nothing left to prove. But if you know Nik, you understand that’s simply not true.
“I always feel like I have something to prove,” said Lewis. “There’s always a group of people that don’t believe it — that last year might have been a fluke.”
Which is why there are no promises. No guarantees. No farewell tour. Not yet, anyway. But that doesn’t mean the future is an afterthought.
Lewis says he wants to be involved with football long after he retires. He’s opening up his own facility in Texas and he’s entertained the thought of one day going into broadcasting the way Henry Burris has.
Former teammate S.J. Green is certain that one day, not too long from now, we’ll be calling Nik ‘Coach Lewis’.
“This is his last year, he’ll be on somebody’s coaching staff next year,” said Green, who was traded to the Toronto Argonauts this off-season. “He will be. I don’t know if he told you but he had job offers to be a coach before he came to Montreal. And he does have a great knowledge of the game. He knows the league, he knows the game.”
“You’d be blown away to sit in an X’s and O’s meeting with him . . . He has that much knowledge. Guys respect him.”
Former Als receiver S.J. Green
Lewis is the CFL's eighth-leading receiver in all-time yards (Photo: David Chidley/CFL.ca)
Green, who has played 10 years in the league, including the last two seasons with Lewis, describes his former teammate’s understanding of the CFL as ‘very impressive’.
“You’d be blown away to sit in an X’s and O’s meeting with him,” said Green. “He has a great mind when it comes to seeing things and getting guys open. He’s a clown, don’t get me wrong — some people take offence to it but he doesn’t care. He’s just a guy that speaks the truth. He says what he feels but he has fun with it too.
“Realistically, he could be a coach or get into a front office” Green added. “He has that much knowledge. Guys respect him.”
After 14 seasons in the league, the Alouettes’ leading receiver from 2016 says he agrees that coaching would be a natural fit. Lewis says he’s in tune with the ups and downs of every season and the ways in which different organizations and people work.
He says he knows all of the defences in the CFL and all of the offences like the back of his hand. Meanwhile, he adds, he can take the temperature of a room and understand what’s really in front of him.
“There’s nothing too surprising anymore,” Lewis shrugged.
When the time comes to walk away, the things Nik Lewis would miss most are the locker-room and the competition.
The CFL locker-room has provided a safe space, Lewis explained, where words don’t carry the same weight.
“It’s just one of those places where you can just have that freedom and that camaraderie and you joke around and you hang out and it’s fun,” said Lewis. “There are so many things said in the locker-room that carry no weight — but they carry so much weight on the outside of the locker-room.”
The Als' receiver attempts a one-handed catch during a game last October (Photo: MontrealAlouettes.com)
And while coaching might not replace that locker-room talk, it could at least help fill a competitive void.
“Competing against people that can potentially be better than you — after that it’s like I’ll be competing playing board games or video games,” said Lewis. “If I’m coaching, that’ll be my competition. But then I’ll have no direct effect on the outcome.”
The receiver confirmed he’s been approached by other coaches about moving onto the sideline — and if the right opportunity arises, that’s something he’d like to do.
In the meantime, for Lewis, larger than life here, the pomp and circumstance can wait. More than anything, he’s focused on the Montreal Alouettes and winning this season. The now.
Lewis says his team has as much to prove as he does. While things went wrong for the Alouettes last year, the veteran receiver was quick to point out that they tied for second in the East — just a single point shy of hosting a playoff game.
“I don’t think we get the respect we deserve,” said Lewis. “As bad as some may feel we were last year, we still tied for second. Through everything that went on.”