The Stamps kicked 2023 off with a bang.
Only three days into the new year and the team made waves announcing that not one, but two legendary players will return and suit up in the coaches building rather than the locker room.
Nik Lewis joins the coaching staff as the new receivers coach, while Juwan Simpson takes on the role of defensive line coach. The roles were formerly occupied by Marquay McDaniel and Cornell Brown, respectively.
Lewis suited up for the Red & White for 11 seasons before finishing his career in Montreal. Among many other accolades, he accumulated 1,051 receptions and 13,778 receiving yards, putting him fifth all-time in the CFL. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2021.
From 2008-2015, Simpson recorded 395 career tackles, 24 sacks, three interceptions, and seven forced fumbles in the regular season. He added 43 tackles and one sack in 11 postseason appearances.
The pair won two Grey Cups together in 2008 and 2014 and both signed one-day contracts to retire as Stampeders.
“I’m super excited about it, man,” said Simpson on reuniting with his old teammate on the coaching staff. “Nik and I are good buddies and I’ve always loved competing against him.”
“He’s definitely a competitor. That fire and passion I have on defence, he has on offence. His knowledge of the game, he just knows so much and he played for a long time. Iron sharpens iron and we’re going to compete, too. He’s going to get the best out of his guys as will I on defence.”
“Calgary is a great organization and they’ve been a great organization,” he added. “I think that’s another thing that makes it easy for us both to come in and makes us excited about it. It’s like ‘Hey, we’re going into a good situation’ and hopefully we can come away with a cup.”
The transition from player to coach began when Simpson joined the team in 2016 as a guest coach during training camp.
“I really enjoyed myself and had a great time,” said Simpson. “I’ve been in touch with Coach Dickenson through the years and we’ve always kind of thrown the idea around and for whatever reason it came back around this year and it was perfect timing and here we are.”
You could definitely call the 38-year old’s return to Calgary a homecoming of sorts.
“It does feel like home,” he said. “I was there for eight years and never tried any other cities. I’ve lived there the second most in my life. It’s definitely a good feeling and I think it allows me to focus more on why I’m there. To give my best effort coaching those guys and get the best out of them on the field. It gives me a sense of calmness in that sense.
“It will be good to be back and to see some familiar faces.”
Since taking over the middle linebacker position in 2010, Simpson served as the “quarterback of the defence.” He would ensure the defensive unit was prepared for every snap on the field, and when on the sideline, you could spot No.12 standing alongside defensive line coach DeVone Claybrooks and defensive coordinator Rich Stubler.
“I’ve always been in leadership positions and have always kind of gotten that leader title,” he explained. “But, these guys are professionals, man. This defence is good; it was good before I got there. So, I just want to be able to be in a position to offer any advice, help, motivation or anything they need to make them even better.
“I’m going to bring some energy but, at the end of the day, it’s going to be those guys on the field and I’m just there to try to help where I can.”
The Decatur, Ala. native will be guiding a defensive line that led the league in sacks in 2022 with 56. Mike Rose, Derek Wiggan and Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund are locked in for 2023, while Shawn Lemon and Folarin Orimolade have yet to sign new contracts.
“I’m excited to get in the room with the guys and develop those relationships. I think when you develop those relationships you get those guys to play hard and get every bit of energy they have out of them, it helps everybody.
“I’ve heard a lot about those guys, they’re really good. So again, I just want to help out where I can.
“They were leading the league in sacks by eleven so I’m not really helping too much. They are a really talented bunch and I’m just ready to get going.”