Nik Lewis is now part of a very elite group.
The veteran receiver cracked the 1,000-catch plateau Wednesday night in the Montreal Alouettes’ 24-19 loss to the Ottawa Redblacks. Lewis, 35, became just the fourth player in league history to accomplish the feat, joining former all-stars Geroy Simon, Ben Cahoon and Terry Vaughn.
“It means a lot because when you think of consistency and all the hard work, it’s a number you don’t think to look at when you first start,” Lewis said Thursday. “And then after going through the injury of 2013 (fractured fibula with Calgary), it seemed so far away.”
The five-foot-10, 240-pound Lewis now has 1,003 career catches for 12,387 yards and 71 TDs. Lewis needs 27 receptions to break Simon’s all-time record and another 1,000-yard season would be Lewis’s 11th, tying Vaughn’s league mark.
Heady stuff for a player who was a walk-on at Southern Arkansas, a Division II school.
“I never thought I was going to play pro football,” Lewis said. “It was more my mother driving me and my father believing me, then a lot of people I went to college with telling me I could.
“You don’t see yourself being a Hall of Famer or being at the top of the record books or being the fourth guy (in CFL’s 105-yard history to reach 1,000 catches).”
Lewis spent his first 11 CFL seasons with Calgary, winning Grey Cups in ‘08 and ‘14. He was released shortly after his second championship and signed with Montreal.
After recording 70 catches for 743 yards and two TDs in 2015, Lewis registered 102 receptions for 1,136 yards and three TDs last season. The three-time league all-star signed a two-year deal in the off-season but doesn’t anticipate seeing it through.
“There’s a couple of scenarios where I could see myself coming back but I’m pretty sure this will probably be it,” Lewis said. “I just don’t want to say this is my last year and come back.
“I want to play playoff football again, have a chance to get back to the Grey Cup and win it and get (Simon’s) record. In Calgary I got used to being in the playoffs … my last playoff game was the (2014) Grey Cup so that’s something I want to do before I retire.”
Despite his lofty accomplishments, Lewis feels he has something to prove in every game he plays.
“Throughout my career … I feel like I’ve constantly been counted out,” Lewis said. “But at the end of the day, I love to compete.
“I love competing more than I love football. When I get the opportunity to compete I get to do it against some of the best in the world. That’s why I’m here.”
Lewis has remained among the CFL’s top receivers despite possessing an a-typical physique. Wide receivers are usually speedy athletes with long, lean builds whereas Lewis has a more stout makeup.
“I’m still athletic, I can still jump, I can still run,” Lewis said. “I feel like it’s a discredit to me, to what I’ve done and the work I’ve put in.
“My dad is six foot two, 260 pounds. My brother is 23, six foot four and a half and 285. My sister is 17 and actually taller than I am. I was that guy at 200 pounds my first year … but this is what I am. I like to joke around and have fun talking about it but at the end of the day I work just as hard as anybody in this league with the spin classes, hot yoga, going to the gym and working out six days a week. That’s why I’m still here.”
Montreal dropped to 2-3 on the season with Wednesday’s loss. That’s not what was expected of the Alouettes following the off-season acquisition of quarterback Darian Durant, who has thrown as many TDs (six) as interceptions.
But Lewis feels Montreal’s offence is steadily improving and remains bullish on the club’s prospects this season.
“We only put up 19 points but still had 517 yards of offence,” he said. “Yes, we had the ball inside the 10-yard line twice and got no points and four turnovers is a hard game to win in the CFL … but we gave ourselves a chance to win.
“What I try to relay to Darian is he doesn’t have to be the saviour in Montreal, I believe we have enough weapons to take the pressure off him. If you put the ball in our hands, we’ll make it work … if not, that’s on us but if we win everyone will get the credit. I think Darian is coming around great and we’re definitely on track to being at the top of this league when it’s all said and done.”