Alouettes bring back rugged rush-end Shawn Lemon on one-year deal

The much-travelled veteran helped transform the Grey Cup-winning Alouettes’ defence upon his arrival in late July.

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Through his nomadic CFL career, all Shawn Lemon craved was the desire to feel needed and wanted by an organization. With the Alouettes, Lemon believes he finally has succeeded.

“This means a lot. It feels good to be a priority,” Lemon told the Montreal Gazette by telephone on Thursday, after the Als announced they re-signed the veteran rush-end through 2024. Lemon, 35, could have become a free agent on Feb. 13.

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“I’m not entitled to anything,” added Lemon, who has been a member of every organization except Hamilton, his CFL career having started in 2011, when he played one game for Saskatchewan. “Teams are allowed to do whatever they want to do. I’m super happy and feel appreciated here.”

After being released by B.C. at training camp in May, the 6-foot-2, 242-pound Lemon signed with the Als in late July, brought in to improve their pass rush. And Lemon immediately delivered, producing a team-leading nine quarterback sacks in 13 games, along with 26 defensive tackles, two interceptions, a fumble recovery he returned for a touchdown and a forced fumble.

The addition of Lemon along with the September signing of middle-linebacker Darnell Sankey significantly improved Montreal’s defence. The team went on an eight-game winning streak, culminating in a Grey Cup victory against Winnipeg last month — the Als’ eighth CFL championship and first since 2010. Montreal’s record was 6-7 in mid September following a four-game losing streak.

“Shawn had an immediate impact on our defence and did a great job making it harder on opposing quarterbacks,” general manager Danny Maciocia said in a press release. “He … adapted to the team’s chemistry instantly. He’s been a great veteran for our young players and fully deserves what’s happened to him. We’re happy to have him back.”

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“Everything happens for a reason,” Lemon said. “I feel the timing of me coming in and being a lead by example type of player had good results. (Management) appreciated what I do as a player, on and off the field.”

Lemon has enjoyed a stellar career, recording 101 sacks. He was a league all-star in 2022, when he was the West Division’s outstanding defensive player. Lemon called this latest Cup victory, the third of his career, the most satisfying.

“There was a lot of adversity individually, as a man and as a player,” he said. “A lot of adversity for the team. For me to be able to come in and contribute, overcome adversity, this was like a storybook ending. Nobody could have written it any better for myself. I’m just living the dream.”

Although Lemon turns 36 next August, he believes the best is yet to come, both individually and for the Als. He believes, given a full season under his belt, he can only thrive under the guidance of defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe.

“I know what our work ethic is,” the native of Charleston, S.C., said. “We’re a blue-collar team. The foundation’s here. We work. We compete and don’t mind doing the work.

“I’ll be a whole lot better next year, me knowing the situation I’m in and the second year in a scheme. Bigger, faster. I’ll have a better season than I did this year.”

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