Surrey-raised football player Jamel Lyles at the BC Lions’ practice facility in Whalley in 2019. Lyles played the game with North Surrey Minor Football and at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary before bringing his talents as a running back to the University of Manitoba. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

Surrey-raised football player Jamel Lyles at the BC Lions’ practice facility in Whalley in 2019. Lyles played the game with North Surrey Minor Football and at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary before bringing his talents as a running back to the University of Manitoba. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

PRO FOOTBALL

B.C. Lions bring back Surrey’s Jamel Lyles after team’s huge loss in Winnipeg

The CFL team released him from practice roster back on Aug. 25

Surrey’s Jamel Lyles is back with the B.C. Lions, but will have to wait nearly a week before joining the team at practice, due to mandatory COVID protocols.

The CFL team announced the signing of the running back on Monday morning (Oct. 25), two days after the Lions’ worst loss in a long time.

The six-foot, 210-pound Lyles, 25, returns to his hometown team after dressing for nine games over the past two seasons.

The Lions released him from the practice roster back on Aug. 25.

“I couldn’t be more ecstatic to return to the team, return to the game,” Lyles told the Now-Leader Monday, in a phone call.

“We do have a great group of players and have what it takes to make a playoff run here, and do what we need to do to hopefully win that Grey Cup. We’ll take it day by day, week to week and see what happens. I’m just happy to be back with the team and I’m ready to contribute when I can.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2019: Slain friend motivates Surrey’s Lyles to make it with B.C. Lions.

On Saturday (Oct. 23) in Winnipeg, the Blue Bombers clinched first place in the CFL West Division with a dominant 45-0 blanking of the Lions, who extended their losing streak to four games and now have four wins and six losses on the season.

“Let me say that it’s not pretty watching games from the couch,” said Lyles, who still lives in Surrey.

“I’m pretty close with a lot of the guys, and of course I’ve been watching their games every week, and the CFL in general. It was definitely tough to watch the boys go through a defeat like that (in Winnipeg), but at the same time they’re a strong group of players and we have a great team. You win some, you lose some, and you just have to reassess some things and go from there. This group is willing to work hard and is willing to analyze things.”

Now, Lyles must quarantine at home before joining the Lions at their Whalley practice field.

“I’ll be having three (COVID-19) tests – they’ll be coming to my house and testing me, then I can return on Sunday, I believe,” Lyles said. “That’s the timeframe.”

Lyles said he was given his first COVID-19 vaccination on Sept. 30, followed by a second one recently.

“I’m not sure if that factors into the decision,” he said of his release from the Lions in August, “but unfortunately the world is what it is and we’re in a pandemic, but at the end of the day it’s a business and releases are made.

“It was definitely shocking,” Lyles added, “but at the same time I’m thankful for my teammates and the people I have in my life. It’s part of the game, and you have to be prepared for that aspect of the game when you get to the professional level, you know what I mean? I’m just thankful to be back, picking up where I left off and going from there.”

Lyles was drafted in round eight (69th overall) of the 2019 CFL Draft, and ultimately found his way onto the Lions’ active roster for seven games in his rookie season, racking up 86 yards on 11 carries. The versatile back also played a role on special teams.

His university career with Manitoba Bisons included Canada West Rookie of the Year honours in 2015.

Prior to that, Lyles played club football with North Surrey Minor and also in Cloverdale with the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers high school team.

The Lions facility in Whalley isn’t far from Fleetwood, where Lyles grew up and also where his “brother,” close friend Jaylen Sandhu, was stabbed to death in December 2014, in the 16300-block of 88th Avenue.

Much of Lyles’ motivation to make it as a pro football player has much to do with the death of Sandhu, who was 17. His killer, equal his age at the time, was later sentenced to eight years in prison.

In 2019, Lyles said not a day goes by when he doesn’t think of Sandhu.

“He’s still with me on the daily,” Lyles said in 2019. “At the end of the day, when I’m down and out and having a hard day and thinking football might not work out, he’s there, he’s in the back of my head saying, ‘You’re not giving up, you’ve been wanting this since you were a little kid at North Surrey.’

“And now, look where I am today, and some of that is because of him, you know what I mean. And I had a close friend group that was always in my ear, too, telling me I had talent and that I was more than just an average player, so they were there too, along with Jaylen.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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