March 2, 2024

Hall: Muamba, Lawrence ready for the future after retirement Canadian Press

Mere days into retirement, linebacker Henoc Muamba is talking about the lifecycle of a butterfly and the beauty that comes with closing even the most spectacular of chapters in our lives.

For endings inevitably lead to new beginnings. And goodbyes make way for hellos.

“I see my football career like a cocoon,” says Muamba, the first player taken in the 2011 CFL draft. “Now I’m retired, I feel like I’m a butterfly. I’m ready to fly, and I’m so excited about the opportunities in front of me.”

Down in Hamilton, linebacker Simoni Lawrence is also excited about the opportunities in retirement.

“I put in a lot of work on the gridiron,” says Lawrence, who broke into the league in 2012 with Edmonton before moving the following season to Hamilton. “And I’m calling it a graduation — celebrating what I did and moving forward to see what’s next.

“It feels like I just left with a doctorate degree in football, and I’m moving up to my next degree.”

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CFL fans can be forgiven for feeling sentimental or sad over the recent retirements of both Muamba in Toronto and Lawrence in Hamilton.

Both are 35. Both dominated for years in the heart of the defence on their respective teams. Both are big-time playmakers with even bigger personalities, albeit in different ways.

And both are the faces of an on-field era that is nearing an end.

“There’s a few older guys left in the league,” Muamba says, mentioning Montreal defensive end Shawn Lemon, Saskatchewan offensive lineman Philip Blake and Winnipeg linebacker Adam Bighill as “old-timers” still on active rosters.

“Ultimately it’s a cycle,” he says. “You come, and you impact the game as much as you can. “

It’s difficult to measure the impact Muamba and Lawrence had both on and off the field.  Numbers only tell a fraction of the story.

Through 169 career regular-season games, Lawrence registered 742 defensive tackles, 35 sacks, 15 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles and 11 fumble recoveries.

In 135 regular season games, Muamba collected 610 defensive tackles, 17 sacks, seven interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

“I wasn’t born dreaming about being a professional football player,” says Muamba, who hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo but grew up in Mississauga, Ont. “It wasn’t until my basketball coaches said in high school that I should try football. And it was a leap of faith because I didn’t understand football. I didn’t like the game of football.

“But I did try it out. And as they say, the rest is history.”


Both Lawrence and Muamba have personal game plans for life upon hanging up their cleats.

Lawrence is already serving as a brand and community ambassador for the Hamilton Sports Group, which owns the Tiger-Cats and soccer club Forge FC.

“My whole career I was able to trick my mind into doing amazing things,” Lawrence says. “So I thought with this new opportunity on the business side, that I could trick my mind into believing that — since I put in 10 years of hard grinding and brutal hits and stuff on the football field —  that I would be able to trick my mind into this being me graduating.

“And now, I’m in the business world where I don’t have to do that to my body to earn some bacon.”

Lawrence played for 10 seasons in Steeltown, and he has no intention of leaving his adopted hometown.

“I just love the realness in Hamilton,” says Lawrence, a product of Upper Darby, PA. “Nobody is going to sugar coat anything. It is what it is. I think Hamilton was the perfect fit for Simoni because I was able to be my authentic self.

“Hamilton is just one of those cities where they like it real, and that’s why I was so successful here in the community and with the fanbase here too.”

Muamba is pursuing several different career paths after retirement including working in media as a broadcaster and possibly joining a CFL front office to marry his love of football with his love of business.

He also plans to build on his extensive experience as a mentor in the community through his foundation.


“I know there are some kids out there, specifically in the Congo, that are probably more athletic than Henoc Muamba, that are probably faster than Henoc, that can jump higher than Henoc,” Muamba says. “I don’t know how many are better looking, but…

“It’s not just about, ‘hey, I want you to play pro football.’ If that happens, that’s great. But beyond that, I’ve learned so much from the game of football, and I want to give back.”

Both Muamba and Lawrence also want to give back by reframing the concept of retirement for the next generation.

“I really want to change the narrative of the transition process,” says Muamba, the Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Canadian during the 2022 Grey Cup.

“It shouldn’t be this melancholic, egregious process. It should really be a time of celebration.”

Lawrence offers a similar brand of advice to those currently occupying a slot on a CFL depth chart.

“I grant everybody permission to play psychological warfare with their brains and tell themselves that, when they’re done their football careers, they are graduating,” he says. “They are moving to the next level and are going to be even more successful than they were on the football field.

“Don’t look at it as something sad. Make it something that’s going to work for you. Make it a graduation and a celebration.”

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