West­lake grad­u­ate Lemon ex­celling in the CFL

West­lake grad ad­just­ing to life in Toronto

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL REID mreid@somd­news.com

It may not be where he ex­pect- ed to end up, but it ap­pears de­fen­sive line­man Shawn Lemon has fi­nally found a home with the Toronto Arg­onauts of the Cana­dian Foot­ball League.

Lemon, who grad­u­ated from West­lake High School and at- tended The Univer­sity of Ak- ron, has played for a num­ber of Arena Foot­ball League and Ca- na­dian Foot­ball League teams, and has even had try­outs with the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers and San Francisco 49ers. But it looks like he’s fi­nally found his niché.

“Yeah, most def­i­nitely,” Lem- on said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “I’ve been other places, but I de­cided to pur­sue some CFL op­por­tu­ni­ties at the time and I think I’ve found a good fit here in Toronto.”

The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder who was clocked at 4.6 sec­onds in the 40-yard dash dur­ing his NFL try­outs said his skill set is per­fect for the Cana­dian game, which plays on a big­ger field than the NFL.

“It’s a good fit for my game as far as get­ting af­ter the quar­ter­back be­cause I can rely on my speed,” Lemon said. “[The big­ger field] helps you uti­lize your skill set with your feet and your hands. I feel like you have to be a lit­tle more ath­letic to play de­fen­sive line in the CFL than in the NFL. It’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent game. Most def­i­nitely.”

Lemon, who was ac­quired from Saskatchewan in a July 2 trade, had 22 tack­les and had a team-best 14 sacks — three play­ers were tied with four each — and four forced fum­bles in 16

games for the Ar­gos. He was nom­i­nated for de­fen­sive player of the year for the sec­ond time (he also earned a nod in 2014) and se­lected as a CFL all-star.

“Per­son­ally I had a pretty good sea­son, but we fell short and didn’t make the play­offs so that’s al­ways tough,” Lemon said of Toronto, which was 5-13 and fin­ished last in the East Di- vi­sion. “We just have to go back and do some work on some lit­tle things and get there next year.”

Lemon starred for the Wol- ver­ines and had 97 tack­les and a SMAC-record 21 sacks his se­nior year.

“Coach Zac was a tremen­dous help to me on and off the field. He’s al­ways been there for me and he’s there for me now,” Lemon said re­fer­ring to Do­minic Zac­carelli, the for- mer Wolver­ines head foot­ball

coach and cur­rent ath­letic di­rec­tor. “And [de­fen­sive line] coach [Mar­lon] Cur­tis re­ally helped me out and took me un­der his wing and uti­lized me and helped me learn pass rush things that helped me. I al­ways felt like I was in col­lege be­cause of the set-up and at­mos­phere.”

He at­tended Akron and in 41 ca­reer games had 102 tack­les, in­clud­ing 23 for loss, 11 sacks and six forced fum­bles. He was an All-Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer- ence se­lec­tion his se­nior year af­ter tal­ly­ing seven sacks and four forced fum­bles.

“He helped me and guided me,” Lemon said of play­ing at Akron with older brother Mar- cus, who was also his room- mate. “It made col­lege a lot eas­ier be­cause I had a fa­mil­iar face.”

Af­ter col­lege, Lemon had two brief stints with Win­nipeg and Saskatchewan of the CFL in 2011 be­fore play­ing for four Arena Foot­ball League teams.

“Arena foot­ball is a good league, but I had more of a big- ger look for my­self to play on a big­ger plat­form,” he said, “so I just used that as a step­ping­stone to where I am to­day.”

He re­turned to the CFL in June 2012 with Ed­mon­ton and had 15 tack­les, six sacks and a forced fum­ble in 12 games with the Eski­mos.

He spent the next two years with Cal­gary and had two tack- les and a sack dur­ing the Stam- ped­ers’ win over Hamilton in the 102nd Grey Cup in Novem- ber 2014.

“That’s one of the best feel- ings I’ve had in my life win­ning the Grey Cup,” said Lemon, who re­turned to the Grey Cup, al­beit in a loss, the fol­low­ing year as a mem­ber of the Otta- wa Red­Blacks. “We set the goal with a good group of guys and to ac­tu­ally ac­com­plish it was amaz­ing. It’s the ul­ti­mate high of my sports ca­reer.”

Lemon was also nom­i­nated

for de­fen­sive player of the year af­ter fin­ish­ing with 27 tack­les, 13 sacks and tied a CFL record with eight forced fum­bles.

He’s also had try­outs with Pitts­burgh and San Francisco of the NFL, though both teams elected to go with a youth movement over the then-27-year-old Lemon.

Lemon han­dles the re­leases and trades the way he’s done every­thing since his days as a Wolver­ine, with the sup­port of his fam­ily — which also in­cludes fa­ther Ed­ward, mother Loretha, and broth­ers Mar­cus, Ed and An­thony — and by play- ing with a chip on his shoul­der.

“My whole life I’ve been told that I wasn’t big enough to play de­fen­sive end. I was told I wasn’t fast enough to play de­fen­sive end, I wasn’t fast enough to get a Di­vi­sion I schol- ar­ship, I wasn’t fast enough or big enough to play in the NFL,” said Lemon, who trains dur­ing the off­sea­son with Fran

Penny at Wal­dorf-based Pin­na­cle Per­for­mance. “But I’ve just con­tin­ued to prove peo­ple wrong my whole life. It’s just made me work even harder. I never looked at it as a neg­a­tive sit­u­a­tion. I’ve looked at it like ‘OK, I can get bet­ter and prove that guy wrong, prove that guy wrong, prove that guy wrong.’”

But it ap­pears his fre­quent-flyer points might be put on hold for at least a lit­tle while.

“It’s re­ally a fun league and the fans here are amaz­ing,” Lemon said of life in Toronto with fi­ancee Brit­tany Wilson. “[The fans and city have] re­ally em­braced me and it’s a good at­mos­phere to play in. It’s re­ally a fun league and the fans here are amaz­ing. I’ve def­i­nitely blown up a lot on Canada and built a good mar­ket and a name for my­self here. I’m just en­joy­ing the process right now. If an­other win­dow comes I’ll han­dle it then. I’m lov­ing the sit­u­a­tion I’m in right now.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Toronto Arg­onauts’ Shawn Lemon, a West­lake High School grad­u­ate, brings an Ot­tawa ball­han­dler to the turf.

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