The Canadian Football League opened its 2021 season on Thursday, and the star of the first game was former Cal wide receiver Kenny Lawler.
Lawler had four catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 19-6 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the first CFL game since November 24, 2019.
The CFL canceled its 2020 season due to the pandemic, and this year’s season was delayed two months amid lingering concerns about the virus.
Lawler made his mark in the season opener for Winnipeg, which had defeated Hamilton in the 2019 Grey Cup.
“It felt good to be out there,” Lawler said after Thursday's performance. “It’s somewhat of coming-out party. I felt like I left some things out there, some things that I can improve on always. Like I said, I hold myself to the highest expectations, the highest standard.”
Winnipeg's scoring came from Lawler's touchdown catches of 25 and 28 yards.
Lawler caught his first TD at 12:09 of the first quarter.
Lawler later hung onto a 28-yard pass in the end zone at 13:41 of the second quarter. Lawler made the catch despite the fact that a defensive interference penalty would have been called on Hamilton if he hadn't caught it.
"Kenny's just an amazing talent in general," Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros said.
Lawler was outstanding at Cal. His 27 career touchdown receptions are tied for the second-most in Cal history, behind on Sean Dawkins’ 31 TD catches. And Lawler surely would have broken the record had he stayed for his senior season.
Instead he entered the NFL draft after catching 52 passes for 658 yards and 13 TDs as a junior in 2015.
Lawler played at Cal from 2013 to 2015, the same three seasons that Jared Goff was the Golden Bears' quarterback.
Lawler was selected in the seventh round of the 2016 draft by the Seattle Seahawks, but he never played in an NFL regular-season game. In both 2016 and 2017, he was among the Seahawks’ final cuts to get the team down to the 53-man regular-season roster.
His first season in the CFL was 2019, when he had 43 catches for 647 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games.
Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53
Find Cal Sports Report on Facebook by searching: @si.calsportsreport or going to https://www.facebook.com/si.calsportsreport