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Not many pro football players can claim they once had Gene Simmons as a boss. Jeremy Lewis is a rare exception. Following a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013, he found himself playing for the Arena Football League’s Los Angeles Kiss, a squad owned by Simmons and branded after the makeup-wearing, fire-breathing musicians.
“I was only there for a couple of weeks and then got traded to San Antonio before playing any games, but I have a picture with Gene and he was a really great guy,” recalls the new Lions’ offensive lineman.
Lewis isn’t Simmons’ only connection to the BC Lions. The legendary bassist and his entire family were part of the coin toss at a Lions home game at Empire Field in 2010.
The Kiss football edition was also featured on a reality show titled ‘4th and Loud’ that no doubt provided a unique experience for any player looking to make a name for himself.
In retrospect, getting out of L.A. was probably a blessing in disguise for Lewis. After seven games with the San Antonio Talons, he caught the eye of the Toronto Argonauts and attended his first CFL training camp with them in 2014. He would eventually end up with Hamilton in July of that season, another move that proved to be beneficial for him and a Ticats’ squad that came oh so close to sipping from the Grey Cup at BC Place.
“Even though it didn’t end the way we wanted, that first season and getting to the Grey Cup was the highlight of my football career so far,” says Lewis.
Spending Grey Cup week in Vancouver also opened his eyes as to how cool it would be to one day move here and play for the Lions. That was one of the first things that crossed his mind when the club’s director of player personnel Torey Hunter reached out to him in free agency.
“This was the best fit for me. I have now been in Canada almost four years and Vancouver was always my favourite place to visit,” explains the University of Miami product.
“A lot of factors play into that, from the city to the stadium. I always loved it every time I played you guys.”
Lewis built off his learning experience in 2014 and started 29 games at right tackle over the next two seasons. He moved on to Montreal in 2017 where various factors led to only three appearances for the last place Alouettes. Now he is hungry to become a regular in what should be a somewhat revamped offensive line that includes a fellow newcomer he played with at Miami: none other than Joel Figueroa. The pair will now try and rekindle some of the magic they created at ‘The U.’
“I had a feeling he was going to end up here, but we didn’t really talk about it at all until we both signed,” says Lewis.
“Joel is one of the best, if not THE best, left tackles in the league. He’s a great player, but also a great person. I have nothing but great things to say about him and he’s an absolute beast on the field. We landed a good tackle there.”
When it comes to the battles on the right side of that offensive line, Lewis will be an intriguing one to watch. Returning international Antonio Johnson was also re-signed in the offseason. As the old saying goes: competition brings out the best in everyone.
“I’m ready to work,” claims Lewis.
“Nobody owes you anything in the football business. I have an opportunity that I can’t wait to fulfill.”
Along with preparations for his fifth CFL camp, the resident of Pembroke Pines, Florida, roughly 22 miles from downtown Miami, is busy running Slippery Soap, his car detailing business. Lewis majored in Liberal Arts and started the business in hopes of launching his plans for post-football.
“As great as this game is, the paycheques don’t last forever,” he says.
“When you make your money you have to do something with it and I really take pride in being a businessman and the ownership that comes with what I do.”
No different than the gridiron itself. Pride of ownership will be one of the key things for vets and rookies when they hit the field at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops on May 20th.
Just talking to him, you can tell Lewis was ‘made for lovin’ football.’