Three-time Grey Cup champion Shawn Lemon announces retirement from football

Montreal Alouettes defensive end Shawn Lemon (0) hoists the Grey Cup as the Alouettes celebrate defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 110th CFL Grey Cup in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, November 19, 2023. (Frank Gunn/CP)

Shawn Lemon is going out on top.

The veteran defensive lineman announced his CFL retirement Wednesday. The decision came less than five months after Lemon helped the Montreal Alouettes defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 28-24 at Tim Hortons Field for their first Grey Cup title since 2010.

“I just spent some time thinking about it and it’s time for me to move on,” Lemon said. “I’m definitely grateful and thankful for my time in the Canadian Football League.

“It’s just the right time to leave after a championship and an amazing season with Montreal. I’m thankful they (Alouettes) gave me an opportunity to come in and play last year. I just wish I could’ve got to Montreal a little earlier in my career.”

As for life after football, Lemon said he has some irons in the fire but nothing imminent.

Lemon, 35, had signed a one-year deal with Montreal in December. He joined the Alouettes last season after being released by the B.C. Lions during training camp.

After acquiring Lemon, Montreal went 12-4, including the post-season. He had 26 defensive tackles, nine sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble in 13 regular-season games.

The Charleston, S.C., native also earned his 100th CFL sack last season, And Lemon said over a career that spanned 13 seasons, the ’23 campaign will remain a career highlight.

“Just looking at how the Grey Cup went and all of the adversity I dealt with last year,” he said. “For the season to wrap up the way it did with reaching my 100th career sack, 13 years played in the CFL and being the 13th player in league history to reach 100 career sacks was unreal.

“Then me as a player not having signed with Hamilton but winning a Grey Cup in (Tiger-Cats) home locker room, I couldn’t have written a better script.”

Lemon began his pro career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as a practice-roster player in 2011 and spent time with every CFL team except Hamilton. He also won Grey Cups with Calgary (2014) and Toronto (2017). He also spent time with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers as well as two Arena Football League teams and another in the Indoor Football League.

Retired quarterback Kevin Glenn is the only player in CFL history to have been with all nine franchises.

Lemon registered 237 tackles and 101 sacks in 237 career regular-season games. He also had three interceptions, forced 30 fumbles and returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Lemon was a CFL all-star in 2022 when he had 14 sacks with Calgary, tying his career-best recorded in 2016 over 16 contests with Toronto. He was named the West Division’s top defensive player that season.

“You always want to leave the league better than how you found it and I felt like I truly, truly left this league better than I found it,” Lemon said. “I tried to be a good teammate, I tried to be a good mentor, I tried to be a good leader to my peers.”

Lemon said there were many CFL coaches and front-office personnel who were instrumental over his career, including Montreal general manager, Danny Maciocia, head coach Jason Maas, defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe and defensive line coach Corvey Irvin. 

He also highlighted working with Wally Buono, John Hufnagel, Brent Monson, Cornell Brown, DeVone Claybrooks, Corey Mace, Cory Chamblin and the late Rich Stubler at previous stops.

“I was fortunate enough to sign contracts with eight of the nine teams in the CFL and I’ve enjoyed every moment,” Lemon said. “I’ve really enjoyed the journey, it’s been nothing short of amazing.

“I’m super thankful I was embraced by the league, by the fans, by the CFLPA, by the coaches and front offices and my teammates. I’m so happy to have called Canada home.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.