Lemar Durant's gamble pays off as Lions extend receiver's contract
Lemar Durant’s “show me” year turned out to be a showtime season.
And the Coquitlam native didn’t just prove he was elite to the B.C. Lions, he proved it to himself. After joining B.C. on a one-year deal from the Calgary Stampeders, the wide receiver posted career-highs in catches (57), receiving yards (810) and touchdowns (five) before a broken metatarsal bone ended his CFL season with three games left on the schedule.
It ended his quest at his first 1,000-yard season, but the Lions made sure it wasn’t the final chapter in his promising story. On Thursday his two-year extension was made official, a deal TSN’s Farhan Lalji reported was for $192,000 in 2020 and $200,000 in 2021, which represents a hefty raise.
“It’s big, man. That’s all what I was looking for — a team that would respect what I did, and I respected them,” Durant said. “They said if I came out and performed, then the next year, they’d take care of me. There was no back and forth, we just agreed on numbers and got it done.
“I knew coming in … they wanted me to be a big part of the offence, so I knew I was going to get the opportunities I wasn’t getting in previous years. That’s the biggest thing — the coaches trusted me to do it, and gave me the shot.”
Durant’s previous highs were 402 yards (2016) and three touchdowns (2015), but he was an underused target in Calgary. He jumped at the chance to catch passes from Mike Reilly, with general manager Ed Hervey telling Durant he believed he was a 1,000-yard receiver.
And he nearly was.
During the fateful jet sweep against the Toronto Argonauts, Durant felt his toe, which had been sore for a few weeks, “pop.” It wasn’t immediately painful, but he knew something was wrong. An X-ray in the locker-room confirmed the injury.
“There were so many emotions going through my mind, but overall it was just frustration, disappointment,” said Durant. “I put in so much work this off-season … and coming in, my body was feeling great.
“To come that far, and be having that good of a season, and then to have something like that happen where it’s out of my control … that’s why I was mad. It was such a random injury. That was tough. (1,000 yards) was something I wanted to do, just for myself.
“Without having that injury, I would have gotten it easily. It’s something I know I can do, and the coaches know I’m capable of, so at least I have that part. Next year, I’m going to hit that mark.”
In training camp, the Lions looked like they were going to be a vertical, deep-ball team, but early returns against other teams quickly disabused them of that idea, as they became a more possession-based offence. Their play in the red zone sputtered — though Durant was lethal for B.C. early in the season — and a 1-10 start was the result.
Despite that, Durant was still caught off guard by the firing of head coach DeVone Claybrooks, and with offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson and receivers coach Markus Howell — both of whom Durant was close with — being in limbo, it injects some uncertainty in how next season will look.
“I was shocked … I didn’t see it coming,” Durant said of Claybrooks’ dismissal. The coach was defensive coordinator in Calgary at the same time Durant was there.
“I liked him a lot as a head coach — I think he’s a great head coach. But that’s part of the business. It’s always tough, when you don’t know what’s going to happen. Especially with Jarious and Markus, being around them every day. I hope they stay, but that’s not up to me. I just have to be prepared for whatever the situation is.”
Currently, that’s just rehab. Durant’s foot won’t require surgery, good news for a player who’s already had three knee surgeries in his career.
“I’ve had a lot of setbacks in my career with things like this. But I always come back better,” he said. “I plan to keep that trend going, get better, and not have anymore setbacks going forward.”
END ZONE: Receiver Bryan Burnham and kicker Sergio Castillio were named to the West Division All-Star team this week. Burnham had a career-best 100 receptions for 1,492 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year, one of just three CFL receivers to hit the 100-catch mark. Castillo also had a career season, hitting 41 of his 45 field goal attempts and finishing as the only CFL kicker with a success rate above 90 per cent.
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