Canadian kicker Lirim Hajrullahu signs with Los Angeles Rams

Photo courtesy: Gary Zauner

Canadian kicker Lirim Hajrullahu has signed a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Rams, per sources.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats released Hajrullahu in January to pursue NFL opportunities. L.A. has an opening at placekicker after Greg Zuerlein left for the Dallas Cowboys in free agency.

Born in Kosovo, Hajrullahu and his family fled the region when he was a nine-year-old as Serbian forces attacked their town. More than a million ethnic Albanians were displaced and 11,000 were killed in a war that lasted 18 months in the late 1990s.

The family ended up in a refugee camp in neighbouring Macedonia. The family bypassed a chance to immigrate to the U.S. and opted for Canada instead, ultimately settling in the St. Catharines area.

The 29-year-old played in all 18 regular season games with the Ticats in 2019, converting 47-of-55 field goal attempts (85.5 percent) and 26-of-28 single convert attempts (92.8 percent), while averaging 43.1 yards per punt on 106 attempts.

The five-foot-eleven, 205-pounder ranked tied for first in the CFL in field goals made (47), third in scoring (162 points) and sixth in field goal percentage. Hajrullahu earned division all-star honours for the first time in Hamilton and second time in his career (2016 and 2019).

“I want to play the best in the NFL, right now that’s the highest league in terms of football. I feel like I’m where I need to be in order to compete with some of these guys. I know I can play at that level. The CFL and the NFL talent — the difference is very minuscule,” Hajrullahu said following the Gary Zauner free agent combine in March.

Hajrullahu was the only Canadian in the league that handled all kicking duties for a franchise last season and it’s led to an NFL shot.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.