April 10, 2024

Cauz: Lawler’s consistency is what sets him apart

Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca

I’m so angry at the editors around these parts! Kristina Costabile and Chris O’Leary asked me if I would like to interview a couple prominent CFL players for some upcoming stories like the one you are reading now. As someone who does a daily radio show I jumped at the chance, who doesn’t want to get into the minds of some of the game’s best players? There is only one problem: How am I supposed to generate the requisite amount of “sports hate” when the Bombers are taking on my hometown Toronto Argonauts after gaining some insight into who the two-time CFL All-Star is a person?

Anyone with older parents or who have lost loved ones know that our hospitals, long term care homes and hospices are filled with angels. They may have comfortable shoes instead of wings, but they are the ones taking care of those people who mean the world to us during such difficult times.

Kenny Lawler did not hesitate when I asked him who his role model is, saying his mother before I got the question out of my mouth. She has spent her life giving back, working in hospices, helping people with Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome, doing her best to provide joy for people in real need. She taught the Blue Bombers receiver how to be a gentleman, the importance of catering to others and to realize the world is always bigger than just yourself.

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Lawler has totalled 3,446 yards and 21 touchdowns in his CFL career so far (Christian Bender/CFL.ca)

Her impact on Lawler’s work ethic is evident throughout our conversation. His first memory of the Bombers 33-12 Grey Cup win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2019 was not about the final moments or post-game celebrations. Instead, it was all about the week leading up to the game. The now two-time Grey Cup Champion spoke glowingly about the level of attention that went into every detail from the moment they landed in Calgary. The energy, the professional atmosphere left no doubt to everyone in that locker room that Mike O’Shea’s team was treating the 107th Grey Cup as a high-end business trip. One of the biggest compliments he gave about Zach Collaros was about the level of preparation he puts in daily. It wasn’t about his quarterback’s ability to get him the ball but rather how Collaros reduces pressure on gameday through the work that is done before kickoff. Grinders recognize grinders.

I appreciated how honest Lawler is about himself when I asked how different he is now as a player and person versus when he first came on the scene half a decade earlier. He recognized that as a CFL rookie he had the sort of ‘know it all’ attitude that is a part of so many young players no matter the sport. He freely admits he was limiting himself back in the early days by not putting the work in that was needed and touchdown celebrations were often just about himself. Compare that to now when a trip to the end zone is followed by finding his teammates to celebrate or that he finds true happiness about what he does on the field as it allows him to express himself in the sort of artistic way we see from all great athletes.

The two-time Grey Cup champion had 901 yards and six majors in 2023 with the Bombers (Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca)

I know this sentence will come off as a tagline for a 1980’s action movie poster, but for Lawler football is personal. He said he has not gotten over the Grey Cup loss to Montreal. So much of an athlete’s life goes into getting to one of those moments and when it doesn’t work out that negative emotion is used as fuel for the next season. In the case of the Blue Bombers pass-catcher let’s just say that fuel tank will never get close to empty. You can see that in all the monster games he’s had against the BC Lions, his original team that under different management didn’t believe in his abilities and eventually let him go. As he said, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and in this case that second man is O’Shea, Collaros, and general Manager Kyle Walters. Like so many top athletes Lawler has a mega-sized bag of chips on both his shoulders, and I would highly advise picking him up if you play weekly fantasy when Winnipeg is taking on the Lions.

As for his own playing style the line that stuck out was “get it out of the mud” is how the receiver described his game. Being a chain mover, being a guy who will run every route and doesn’t need to be the No. 1 target on every passing down. Lawler does not look at himself as “flashy” or the “speed guy” in fact he is something that is far more important in sports, Lawler is consistent.

I’m not sure if there is any room left but if you have any young ones in your life that are looking to learn more about football and are in the Beausejour, Manitoba area I would highly recommend Lawler’s youth football camp.

His passion for wanting to give back to his community, to give opportunities to children who may not have access to all the resources they need is impressive. In fact, I can’t decide where his main passion lies, outworking you in practice or on the field, proving the Lions wrong, getting that third Grey Cup or honouring the lessons he learned from his mother to always try and give back to others in need. You see how much more difficult it will be for me to root against him when he’s at BMO Field facing the Argonauts secondary?

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