Season No. 2 has been a little different for Geno Lewis.
But a good different.
While the Montreal Alouettes are still trying to find their footing, winning just their fourth game of the season on Friday, Lewis, on the other hand, has adapted well to life as a professional football player.
In just his second season in the CFL, the former Wyoming Valley West football standout and Meyers graduate has already carved out a starting role with the Alouettes and has surpassed his 2017 totals in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
“It’s a blessing,” Lewis said. “I’ve started in every game so far this year. I’ve always been confident in my ability and I think that I can do it. We have some coaches this year that have put their trust in me and believe what I can do and that I can help the team. So far, they’ve been doing what they can to get me the ball.
“Getting experience is probably the best thing for somebody to progress and keep getting better — just going to the games and seeing how things work and how thing happen. It definitely slows down after a while. Once you get that confidence and start making plays, the skies the limit from here.”
During his time at Penn State and Oklahoma, the 25-year-old wide receiver was used in a multitude of ways.
With the Nittany Lions, Lewis mostly lined up on the outside. But then in a faster, and generally smaller, Big 12, Lewis often lined up in the slot. His coaches wanted Lewis to use his size to his advantage against smaller defenders.
Lewis is in the slot once again with the Alouettes. And thriving.
“It’s been probably more even for me this year, playing inside and out, but I can play both,” Lewis said. “I did both in my college career and I’m just comfortable. Just makes me more versatile. I’m all for it. Whatever’s going to help me get the ball.”
His second season with the Alouettes means Lewis is in his second year living across the border in Canada, an experience that has been exciting for the wide receiver.
Living as a professional athlete is one thing, but living as a professional athlete in a foreign country — albeit in Canada — is totally different. Especially considering Lewis calls the French-speaking Montreal home. For now.
“Honestly, it’s a blessing just to be here and experience living in Canada and Montreal because a lot of people come up here, like tourists, they come up here. There’s a lot to do,” Lewis said. “I’m definitely grateful to be in Montreal. And this fan base, they’re very, very loyal. They keep coming to the games regardless of how the team is doing. You can’t ask for anything better.”
But despite calling Montreal his home during the CFL season, Wilkes-Barre has always been in the back of Lewis’ mind.
It’s why Lewis is coming home during his bye week this week and is holding a meet-and-greet at his friend’s restaurant in Pittston. The meet-and-greet is being held 2-8 p.m. on Friday at QuickChick Restaurant, which his high school friend, Abdulla Kazimi, owns with his father.
“I’m very, very exciting. I think this is a great opportunity to have a great event for the area just to come out and see some smiles on the kids faces and just to let them know more about me and what’s been going on for the last two years.’” Lewis said. “It hasn’t been easy to follow me as much as they want to, but this gives them an opportunity to come out here and just to get to know me, and also to have some great food at Abdulla’s restaurant. It’s really, really exciting that we got to do this together and get back in contact.”
“We were always there for each other,” Kazimi said. “Nothing really happened for us two — we were both good kids. He even texted me the other day. He’s like, ‘You know what? I’m doing this for you, too, because you’re one of the best people I’ve ever met.’ And I was like, ‘You know what? Same thing to you.’
“We were always — I don’t know — we always looked out for each other. We were always really, really — we never lied to each other or anything. I don’t know. He’s very kind-hearted. He really is. We’re looking to try to give back and stuff. I don’t know. We’re trying to find success together.”
For Lewis, Friday’s meet-and-greet is the first step in a long journey of giving back to the Wilkes-Barre community that he’s excited to get started.
When his offseason comes in the winter, Lewis is looking forward to hosting different camps — whether it be football or basketball — and different food drives for holidays like Thanksgiving.
“I think this is the next stride and next opportunity for me to actually start getting involved with the the community,” Lewis said. “I want to have a basketball camp and a football camp. I want to have a Thanksgiving food drive. I’m going to have a Christmas drive for the unfortunate. I’m in the process of trying to get together my foundation for the community. I just feel like this offseason is the time where there will be multiple opportunities for me to get this thing started. I’ve always wanted to come back and do things for the city.”
And at the end of the day, even though Lewis is on a team in the CFL, his dream hasn’t changed. He still wants to play in the NFL and believes he can do it.
At 25, time certainly hasn’t ran out.
“I always believed in myself regardless of what other people said,” Lewis explained. “I just, there isn’t a doubt in my head, and personally, my goal is to still play in the NFL and I still believe I can make that happen. It’s a process. It’s something that you just have to go through. This is just the route I had to go through and guys do it all the time. You just need to get your confidence and somebody to believe in you. Once you get somebody to believe in you, it just makes things a lot easier.
“I’m grateful to be where I’m at right now. I’m grateful to be a starting receiver in a professional league because there aren’t a lot of people that get this opportunity. I’m very grateful.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle