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Down 26 pounds, Brayden Lenius looks for next step w/ Riders

The weight loss/gain story can be a cliche of a training camp in any sport.

The standard is a good 10 to 15 pounds, up or down. Players add muscle or trim fat. It’s an easy this-person-looks-different-than-they-did-the-last-time-we-saw-them story that you find at the start of a season.

Over the last year, Brayden Lenius has worked his way past those standards and deserves a spotlight for the transformation he’s made.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ receiver might have had trouble being allowed into the facilities in Regina when he reported for training camp. The player that wrapped up his 2019 rookie season measured six-foot-five and 240 pounds. The one that sat in front of reporters for a Zoom call on Friday is the same height but is sitting at 214 pounds.

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It prompted Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post to jokingly ask the slimmed down version of Lenius who he was talking with.

“This is the new one, this is the new one you get,” Lenius said, smiling.

The 24-year-old was the Riders’ second-round pick in 2019 and saw limited opportunities in his first year. He had two catches for four yards in 11 games. He said the weight loss was motivated by a little bit of everything, with football a driving force.

“Just wanted to be more successful in my position. With Cory (Watson) departing last year I knew I had to take the next step,” Lenius said.

He credited pre-pandemic time spent with Riders’ receiver coach Travis Moore as a contributing factor in the change. Another big help? He all but abandoned meat in his diet over the last 18 months.

“I’m now plant-based,” he said. “I”m a pescatarian, I still eat fish. I’m from the coast, I can’t not (eat fish).”

Back at the playing weight of his college days at Washington, he said he feels like he can move better and feels more confident.

“I’m able to run by guys now. At 240 I wasn’t able to do that,” he said.

“It puts me in better positions because I can move, I’m more agile and I’m a lot faster now.”

As his call went on, Lenius revealed a more personal factor in the weight loss as well.

“My dad passed away pretty young. His diet and he was like me when he was young but he died at a heavier weight,” Lenius said.

“I want to live my life right, not just with football but outside of that, being a healthy person. I knew I had to do it. I wouldn’t be where I am right now (with football) if I didn’t take that step, losing weight.”

On the field, Lenius would love to be a starter in offensive coordinator Jason Maas’ offence. He reflected on the Riders’ Canadian Air Force, which featured Andy Fantuz, Jason Clermont, Rob Bagg and Chris Getzlaf. Being a Canadian in the CFL means a lot to him. Helping the Riders to a Grey Cup this year would be a crowning achievement for him.

“It’s the Canadian Football League. I was born here, I wasn’t raised here but to have Canadian talent and show that we can play just as well as anyone else, I think it’s important.”

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