Once again, Tyson Philpot will play football minus a brother.
The Montreal Alouettes receiver spent his rookie campaign without his twin brother, Jalen, a receiver with the Calgary Stampeders. The two played together at the University of Calgary.
This season, Philpot won’t have veteran receiver Eugene Lewis to lean on. The East Division’s outstanding player in 2022 signed with the Edmonton Elks this off-season as a free agent.
“Yeah, that leadership role from [Lewis] definitely isn’t going to be there but I was glad to have learned from him,” Philpot said. “And I learned so much like how to be a pro, how to handle business on and off the field, how to be a leader and stay humble.
“He definitely was that big-brother figure.”
But as is the case with his brother, Philpot said he knows Lewis is always just a text or phone call away.
The six-foot-one, 195-pound Philpot – selected in the first round, ninth overall by Montreal in last year’s CFL draft – provided solid production in his first pro season. The 22-year-old Delta, B.C., native appeared in all 18 regular-season games, contributing on offence (39 catches. 459 yards, two TDs) and special teams (11 punt returns for 153 yards, 12 kickoff returns for 342 yards).
Lewis was Montreal’s big-play threat in 2022, leading the CFL in catches (91) and East Division in yards, (1,303) and TD grabs (10). After finishing second in the East, the Alouettes (9-9) defeated Hamilton 28-17 in the conference semifinal before losing 34-27 to Toronto in the final.
But Lewis’s absence won’t be the only one Montreal will have to deal with this season. Starter Trevor Harris and receiver Jake Wieneke (both now with Saskatchewan), backup quarterback Dominique Davis (B.C.) and defensive lineman Michael Wakefield (Ottawa) were among the free-agent departures while Jason Maas was hired as head coach after GM Danny Maciocia also added interim duties last season.
One reason for players leaving the Alouettes was the indecision that surrounded the franchise. The CFL took over the club Feb. 14 (the start of free agency) then sold it the following month to Montreal businessman Pierre Karl Peladeau.
“Of course, you keep an eye on and an ear open for what’s going on,” he said. “I’m excited we have new ownership now and it looks like we’ll be up and running perfectly fine, which I’m excited about.
“But at the end of the day its football to me. We strap on the pads, we play football, that’s the stuff that really matters to me personally.”
The Philpots come by their football prowess honestly. Their father, Cory, was a CFL running back with B.C. (1993-97) and Winnipeg (1999-2000).
Tyson Philpot said while he stayed current with Montreal’s off-season developments, his priority was putting in the work preparing for the ‘23 campaign.
The departures of Harris, Lewis and Wieneke left huge holes in Montreal’s offence. The club dipped into free agency to land veteran quarterback Cody Fajardo, who led Saskatchewan to consecutive West Division final appearances in 2019 and ‘21.
The CFL didn’t play in 2020 due to the global pandemic.
Despite the personnel turnover, Philpot doesn’t see Montreal as an underdog in 2023.
“I guess if you want to look on paper, you could say that,” Philpot said. “But I don’t think so, no.
“I think with the returning guys and new additions we have, we can compete with anyone.”
And with both Lewis and Wieneke having moved on, Philpot sees more chances to excel within Maas’ offence.
“I definitely think there’ll be opportunities for everyone to get plenty of targets and see who’s going to be the one who steps up and takes that role,” Philpot said. “I’m excited and definitely think I can do that, for sure.”
Lewis, for one, agrees.
“Tyson is one of the most exciting players I was able to play with as a teammate,” Lewis said. “I think he hasn’t even scratched the surface regarding where he can get to.
“He’s still learning the game but he’s really explosive, he’s a smart player and such a respectable kid. I think with my departure, he’s going to have more responsibility and get more opportunities . . . the sky is the limit for him.”
In fact, Lewis believes Philpot and fellow Canadian Kaion Julien-Grant, a ‘19 draft pick, can both blossom in 2023.
“Both are great Canadian players . . . they’re going to be fine,” he said. “I think they’ll be able to sustain a good system for [the Alouettes].”
Philpot has spent a lot of time this off-season in his playbook getting familiar with Mass’s offence. Fortunately for the Alouettes, Philpot said the offence is similar to the one he played in at Calgary, where he had 96 catches for 1,963 yards (20.3-yard average) with eight TDs in 22 career games.
“Only having one year under my belt, I almost feel like a rookie again,” he said. “I’m really excited for coach Maas’s offence.
“It’s definitely something I see myself excelling in.”