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Lewis Ward, More Than A Streak

 

By Liam Fox

Lewis Ward is a name known across Canadian football. He has only spent two seasons in the CFL but has already won awards and set league records. Despite the early success however, the Ottawa Redblacks kicker says he doesn’t feel settled.

 

“I don’t think many players settle to be honest. Players like myself are always trying to prove ourselves even if we are team captains, All Stars or Grey Cup champions. I believe that’s what makes the best players the best. To have in their mindset to never settle once they have had some success,” said Ward.

 

Ward was born in England, went to high school in Kingston and became a football star in Ottawa, first with the Garnet and Grey and then the Red and Black.

 

After a fantastic career at the University of Ottawa, where he became the leading scorer in Gee-Gees’ history and kicked the second most field goals in Canadian university football history, Ward tried his hand at going pro. He won an open kicking competition at Redblacks training camp last summer to make the team and has not looked back since.

 

Ward’s accomplishments in 2018, his first CFL season, were staggering.

 

Ward was named a CFL All-Star and the league’s most outstanding rookie and most outstanding special teams player. He helped lead Ottawa to the 106th Grey Cup by hitting the most consecutive field goals in pro football history. Ward nailed 69 straight field goal attempts in a streak that spanned last June to this August. That is more consecutive kicks than any player in CFL or NFL history.

 

“I’m still not sure if last year has fully sunken in yet. The overall experience and [having] the team support me through everything was very special. The experience of the Grey Cup is one you have to experience to fully be able to explain. The whole week leading up to the game is a lot of fun with the events, the all star awards night and the game itself,” said Ward.

 

“The experience of my streak was a great achievement for myself and my team. For us, as a special teams unit to be able to achieve something that the world of football has never seen before was amazing. The whole team was proud and especially the specialists I work with like Richie [Leone, the Redblacks punter and holder] and LP [Bourassa, the Redblacks long snapper] and, of course our coach [special teams coordinator] Bob Dyce. They were just as much a part of the experience as I was.”

 

Ward’s historic streak ended this season against Hamilton on a 31-yard attempt at TD Place. Despite the miss, R Nation gave a standing ovation to demonstrate their pride and appreciation for the record and the man who set it.

 

“Ottawa really displayed a class act with their support and the ovation I received. It just showed me that they appreciated everything I’ve done and the work I’ve put in to help my team win football games,” said Ward.

 

After the success of 2018, this season was a challenging one for the Redblacks. They went from East Division champions  to one of the worst teams in the league. It was also the first time they failed to make the playoffs since 2014.

 

“Ottawa really displayed a class act with their support and the ovation I received. It just showed me that they appreciated everything I’ve done and the work I’ve put in to help my team win football games.”

Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images

 

“Players come in everyday, every week with a positive attitude to work and get better. We just had a handful of games that didn’t quite go our way,” said Ward. “With the off-season coming soon, can’t really speak for what changes might take place. The coaches and players in the building are the guys we need, we just had some tough luck this season in times we may have needed something to go our way.”

 

When asked about the chance he could tryout for an NFL team one day, Ward instead pointed to what he already has in Ottawa and the challenge and opportunity that lies in being a specialist in the CFL.

 

“The NFL is always a dream for any professional football player. The lights [and] the money can be a very exciting thought. However the CFL is a great league to play in and I personally think as a kicker it brings its own challenges arguably making it more difficult than the NFL in some ways. Having so much space behind the uprights can create some mental issues for some kickers. And for punting it can be much more difficult,” said Ward.

 

The focus for one of the CFL’s best kickers remains north of the border, staying in the city that embraced him as he became a  star.

 

“I love the city of Ottawa and the Redblacks for giving me the opportunity to play here. I believe they hold the standard of what a team should be in the CFL with their facilities, community involvement and fan base. It’s a great place to play and I love it here.”

 

Photo by John E. Sokolowski/Getty Images

 

When and how did you learn to be a kicker?

Growing up I played soccer at a high level from [when I was] a young kid all the way until I left for university. Growing up in England soccer is king. Playing soccer for competitive teams or in the playground and even after school at the park. The skills from playing soccer translated into kicking. My dad said growing up I was always able to place and kick a ball very accurate anywhere I wanted on the soccer field. Having those skills along with my coaching and hard work to fine-tune my mechanics of kicking I believe has made me successful so far.

You have hit over 80 field goals in your CFL career so far. What would you consider to be your most impressive field goal for the Redblacks?

My most impressive kick would be the one I just hit in Hamilton [on October 19th] from 56 yards. That kick was my career long in a tough environment and in the middle of October. Those kicks are a little easier in summer but Hamilton is a tough place to play. However, I would say my most impressive performance would be last year in Hamilton when I went 7 for 7 [on field goal attempts]. The winds in the stadium changed throughout the course of the game making every kick difficult and the fact we won the game just on field goals made, each kick [was] that much more important.

 

For a kicker that has had such a great start to his career, what do you look to improve on a day-to-day basis?

On a day-to-day basis my goal is to come into work and be a great teammate off the field, bring a positive attitude. Then on the field I am constantly working on my craft.

 

Anything that you are looking forward to about the offseason that you may not have had enough time for during the football season?

This off-season I’ll be doing the same thing I did last off-season. I will be training and preparing for next season. I will also be coaching at the Titan Performance Centre [in Ottawa], helping kids and teams by assisting our football specific program – helping kids try to achieve their dreams of playing sports at the next level. I also just recently got myself a Bernese mountain dog puppy so I’m excited to get out with him and explore his first winter and get out the house for hikes and walks around the Ottawa area.