It didn’t take long for Justin Medlock to realize he wasn’t ready for life after football.
After a conversation with Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea and assurances the team wanted him back, Medlock signed a one-year contract that was announced Thursday.
“Just having some time away and kind of talking to some people, and coach O’Shea was one of those people, I kind of figured, hey, you know I’m going to be either all in or I’m not in,” Medlock said in a conference call from Florida.
“So after taking some time away, I just figured, man, I want to come back and come back stronger and healthier and ready for a new start.”
After the Bombers lost the CFL West Division semifinal 39-32 to the Edmonton Eskimos on Nov. 12, the seven-year international kicker said he’d go home and take some time to decide if he even wanted to continue playing.
He revealed Thursday he’s been thinking of getting into the medical sales field and had turned down a job offer during the season.
That possible career move was a topic he discussed with O’Shea, who had worked in medical sales after his CFL career.
“He kind of just gave me a little bit of what his experience was like and what going forward on that aspect,” Medlock said.
“He just kind of told me, ‘Hey, you know if you love football go out there and give it your best and try to play a little bit longer.’ He’s like, ‘We need you back here. I don’t think you should give it up right now.’
“I got to thinking about it and I was like, you know I can work down the road. Right now, I want to play some football and I want to do better.”
The 34-year-old placekicker and punter described his second season with the Bombers as “hot and cold.”
He admitted he came into the season not as refreshed and healthy as usual, saying the birth of son Braxton last January threw him off his fitness and rest schedule.
He was also “dinged up” in the middle of the season and avoided kicking in practice for a week and a half so he’d be good for games.
He made 56 of 70 field goals (80 per cent), last among eight qualifying kickers. His new career-high punting average of 43.7 yards was tied for eighth with Calgary’s Rob Maver, but his net punting average of 35.2 yards was third after Ottawa’s Brett Maher (36.2) and Maver’s 35.6.
He hit game-winning field goals against Saskatchewan and Montreal and connected on two last-minute field goals in a victory over Ottawa. He missed a potential winning kick versus Toronto, but said the ball had been moved by officials after it was first spotted. That threw off the setup, something he’ll learn from.
After missing all three field-goal tries and a convert in a Sept. 30 win over Edmonton, Medlock then tied the club record he already shared with Trevor Kennerd with seven field goals in an Oct. 28 loss to B.C.
In his first season with Winnipeg, the UCLA product was named the CFL’s most outstanding special teams player and all-star kicker after hitting a league-record 60 field goals. He also set a new franchise mark with 227 points, tied the Winnipeg record for longest field goal at 58 yards and established a career-high punting average of 42.7 yards.
Overall, Medlock has made 116 of 138 field-goal attempts (84.1 per cent) and is 88-for-89 on converts in two seasons with the Bombers, leading the CFL in scoring both campaigns.
Medlock said he only signed a one-year deal because of the uncertainty of the league’s future collective bargaining agreement.
“I want to play as long as I can and go from there,” he said.
When asked what he thought of CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s comment about possibly starting the season a month earlier, Medlock gave it the thumb’s up.
“It’d be nice,” he said. “Training camp might be a little bit chillier, but there’s nothing like getting some bone bruises on your foot in the cold weather.”
Medlock had been one of more than 20 pending Bomber free agents. The club has also given new deals to running back Timothy Flanders, defensive back Derek Jones and offensive linemen Jermarcus Hardrick and Patrick Neufeld.