When the legend of Sidney Crosby started to take shape kids throughout Canada begged their parents for their first pair of skates and many hockey careers were born.
Much like those kids picking up their first pair of CCM Tacks, my first composite CFL football was purchased after I learned about some of the Canadians that kicked and punted in the CFL. Burke Dales, Sandro DeAngelis, Lui Passaglia, Bob Cameron, Noel Prefontaine (yes, I know about his birth certificate), Jon Ryan, Jamie Boreham, Luca Congi, and more.
This turned into watching the Argos practice at the University of Toronto (Erindale campus) to watch ‘Pre,’ and peeking through the fence at Ivor Wynne to watch Boreham hit his pregame warm-up.
Is it possible that I might have found my way to the CFL and its kicking game without this commonality? Perhaps. Regardless, those were the guys I was focusing on: the Canadian kickers.
In the following years I started to pay closer attention to these players. This led to me watching them live, studying film, and even reaching out to them for advice in the later stages of my CIS (now U Sports) career.
In December 2007, one of the more memorable experiences saw my uncle arrange a call with a high school classmate of his, Lui Passaglia. These exchanges only motivated me further: they were all guys who were doing what I sought to achieve, and their doing so provided a clear road map.
One of the consistent takeaways was that it was possible to achieve my goal of playing in the CFL sitting where I was then, coming where I came from. Through fortune far greater than I could have hoped for this goal turned into a wonderful ten-year career.
A component of the CFL 2.0 initiative includes mandating active roster spots for global players. Until the time comes when there is sufficient supply of developed global players available for these spots (not a slight, most start their career on the practice roster), general managers will be looking for global players who can perform on short order.
A quick assessment of the global talent pool reveals that a high percentage of these players kick (particularly punt), and as much as it pains me to admit it, punting is as plug-and-play as it gets. Josh Bartel, one of the decade’s best, was an East Division all-star in his rookie season. His success is the playbook on how this position could be handled going forward.
A reasonable prediction: mandating active roster spots for a talent pool with a higher amount of kickers and punters does not bode well for the existing kicking and punting talent.
I have discussed this with many in CFL circles — they all agree.
When Brett Lauther kicks a field goal the town of Truro, N.S. cheers.
Jon Ryan could run for Mayor in Regina and win in a landslide (no knock on Sandra Masters).
When I speak at University of Guelph functions or pick up the phone for recruiting calls, there’s a sincere interest as their path could resemble mine.
Stories like these and many more are what they are thanks to the connection they each share with their communities.
The potential benefits and growth of the CFL 2.0 global strategy remain to be seen. There is a growing talent pool abroad and an increased interest in our game. That said, I recognize how lucky I am to have received my opportunity when I did.
Luck, as many know it, is when opportunity meets preparation. While I was doing everything in my power to be prepared, I do not see that same opportunity for the next generation of Canadian kickers and punters in CFL 2.0.