Westlake graduate Lemon excelling in the CFL
Westlake grad adjusting to life in Toronto
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.”
Toronto Argonauts’ Shawn Lemon, a Westlake High School graduate, brings an Ottawa ballhandler to the turf.