Lawler works hard to be the best



If you can accomplish something that puts your name next to Milt Stegall’s, it’s a big deal.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Kenny Lawler has a chance to do that Saturday in Calgary as the Blue and Gold take on the Stampeders in the regular season finale. If Lawler can close out the season as the CFL’s receiving yards leader, he’ll be the first Bomber to do so since Stegall did it back in 2002.

Lawler, 27, currently holds a slim lead as his 973 receiving yards puts him nine yards ahead of Montreal’s Eugene Lewis. B.C. Lions wideout Bryan Burnham heads into the final weekend of the regular season in third at 896.

“I didn’t know that stat with Milt Stegall and the Bombers,” admitted Lawler after Thursday’s practice at IG Field.

“But definitely, coming into my season (that was the goal). I didn’t work this hard for nothing. I didn’t put in the hours, I didn’t put in the sleepless nights and early mornings for nothing. I came into this season to be the best. That’s just my level of competitiveness that I have within myself. I want to be the best. It don’t matter at what, I want to be the best. The work that I put in, it’s come to life.”

Lawler, who led the Bombers in receiving in 2019 with 637 receiving yards on 43 receptions and four TDs, also has a shot at being the team’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Darvin Adams went for 1,028 yards in 2018. To make Lawler’s numbers even more impressive is the fact that he’s doing it in a shortened season. He also sat out on Oct. 8 at home against Edmonton as he was suspended one game after he was arrested for impaired driving.

“It means a lot to me, but that’s not the main concern on my mind,” Lawler said. “My main concern is going in there and getting a win every week. If the yards come with it, the yards come with it. I just want to go out there and compete, be with my brothers, and man, if that accolade comes it’ll be a hell of an accolade, but we’ll let our play dictate that.”

It’s not exactly a surprise to see the University of California product have the season he’s having. Lawler, a seventh round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2016, showed flashes in his first full season in 2019, but since Day 1 of this year’s training camp, it was obvious Lawler had taken his game to a new level.

“Kenny’s a very talented receiver. I think everybody in the CFL circles knows that by now,” said offensive coordinator Buck Pierce.

“We’ve always had high expectations of him, but I think it’s important to notice the other guys as well. I think people look at it as individually that guy got 1,000 yards and those kind of things, but to be consistent, to be balanced on offence, not just getting the ball to one guy, spreading the ball around, being able to run the football, all those things help… But I know it’s not an easy thing to achieve (1,000 yards receiving) and he’s worked extremely hard to get to the point where he is.”

As for who will be throwing to Lawler, assuming he’s in the lineup, and his fellow receivers on Saturday, that remains to be seen. The Bombers continue to hold their cards close to their chest, although quarterback Zach Collaros spent a lot of time working with the first team offence on Thursday. Saturday’s game has zero impact on the standings for either club as the Bombers are set to host the West Division final on Dec. 5 and the Stamps are all booked for a trip to Saskatchewan for the division semifinal on Nov. 28 against the Roughriders. Several starters sat out last week’s 28-14 loss in Montreal, but Lawler wasn’t one of them as he made three catches for 58 yards with backup Sean McGuire getting the start.

Regardless of what is, or isn’t at stake, Lawler made it clear that he wants to play on Saturday. Some may view the game as an unnecessary injury risk for big names like Lawler, but the wideout said players aren’t looking at it that way.

“It’s hard to stay healthy in football. It’s hard. But I just feel like if we go out there and play fearless and competitive, that keeps us safe,” Lawler said.

“We don’t want to play timid because if we’re playing timid and watching over our shoulders, that’s when injuries come… That’s what we don’t want. We just want to play competitive, fearless, tenacious and I feel like that will take care of our team out there.”

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.

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