Jamel Lyles of the Manitoba Bisons looks to run past a Regina Rams defender during a Canada West game in 2015. The Cloverale native is returning to the Bisons in 2017. (Jeff Miller / Bison Sports)

Cloverdale’s Lyles returns to Manitoba Bisons

Former Lord Tweedsmuir Panther won provincial title in Victoria last season

Wherever he plays, Jamel Lyles has put up some incredible numbers.

And the 20-year-old running back from Surrey is expecting to do so again in the fall 2017 when his second season of U SPORTS football with the University of Manitoba Bisons begins.

“I’d like to be the number-one back in the country, statistically,” Lyles said Tuesday afternoon, a day before he boarded a plane for Winnipeg. “As usual, I’m setting high standards for myself. I like to shoot for the stars.”

The Bisons announced earlier this month Lyles had returned to the team after spending this past season with the Victoria Rebels of the Canadian Junior Football League. And after two very successful seasons on the field, both in Winnipeg and in Victoria, Lyles is looking forward to adding to a long list of accomplishments in the fall.

“I’m happy to go back to Manitoba,” he said. “I’m excited to be in a structured program where we have to perform to the best of our ability.

“And I’m excited about our new offensive co-ordinator, coach Blair (Atkinson). He was the wide-receivers coach when I was there, he’s full of energy and I’m looking forward to playing with him as our OC.”

A standout at the high school level with Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers, averaging 215 yards per game in the 2013 season, Lyles moved to the university level with the Bisons in 2015. He was selected a Canada West All-Star at two positions – running back and kick returner – and was named the conference’s Rookie of the Year after leading Canada West with 1,564 all-purpose yards in eight games.

Yet a year later, Lyles was out of university football, opting to return to British Columbia to play in the Canadian Junior Football League for the Westshore Rebels in Victoria, where he was again a dominant player.

He set a B.C. Football Conference record with 1,604 yards rushing in 10 games played, breaking a record held by former B.C. Lions and current Winnipeg Blue Bomber Andrew Harris. Lyles was selected the CJFL’s Outstanding Offensive Player and a CJFL All-Canadian.

“I broke a couple of records, which was nice,” said Lyles, adding that setting up behind a “university-calibre offensive line” contributed to his success.

With Lyles in the backfield, the Rebels won a provincial championship and advanced to the national championship game, where they fell 37-25 to the Saskatoon Hilltops.

“We fell just short, but we gave it everything we had,” said Lyles. “All the players understood what we had to do to get there, and they were a great group of guys who worked hard. It was a special group, one I will remember for a long time.”

Lyles would like to see the 2017 Bisons have as much success as last season’s Westshore Rebels.

“I’d like to help the Bisons get to the Vanier Cup, that would be special,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do to get there, but I think the guys are motivated to accomplish that.”

Rick.Kupchuk@ surreynowleader.com

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