There aren’t many holes in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ lineup heading into the 2021 CFL season, but the absence of veteran kicker Justin Medlock jumps off the page.
Enter rookie Marc Liegghio (pronounced ‘Leg-ee-oh’) out of Western University.
The 24-year-old was a fifth-round pick in the 2020 CFL Draft and is one of the most muscular kickers you’ll ever see on a football field.
“I try to make it look like I match the rest of the team. I know kickers have a mentality of not being very big guys and I know when I walked in here everyone couldn’t really tell what position I was playing at first. I take that as a compliment — you put the hard work in on the field and the hard work in in the gym,” said Liegghio in a videoconference.
The five-foot-eight, 190-pounder performed 15 reps of 225 pounds at the East-West Bowl in 2019, which is pretty remarkable for a kicker. The 2020 CFL National Combine was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Liegghio predicted that he would have recorded 18 to 20 reps had the event gone ahead.
“You are a kicker and a punter, but in the end you are a football player,” he said. “Let’s say it comes down to making that tackle, I want to be sure that I can fit in with those guys and be able to do that for them.”
Winnipeg had Medlock and Liegghio under contract for the cancelled 2020 CFL season, which would have given the former Mustang a chance to learn from one of the greatest kickers in CFL history.
“I wish I would’ve got the chance to work with him because I’ve watched him play for many years and I know he’s one of the all-time greats — definitely going to be a Hall of Famer,” said Liegghio. “I just wish he was here, but obviously I’m just going to come in and provide what I can for the team. I know I got some pretty big shoes to fill.”
Head coach Mike O’Shea has made it clear to his rookie kicker that he doesn’t expect him to come in and be the next Justin Medlock right away. He knows it’ll take time, and the team is willing to work with Liegghio as he gets comfortable performing at the professional level.
“He just said, ‘We’re happy that you’re here, we’re happy that you’re a Bomber. Coming in I know it’s just you and don’t feel that means any pressure whatsoever, we just want you to be you,'” said Liegghio.
“If you come in and try and match what Medlock did it’s not really possible, you gotta build up to that. I think Mike has the confidence that I can reach that goal.”
The native of Woodbridge, Ont. connected on 92-of-105 (88 percent) of his field goal attempts during his tenure at Western University, setting an all-time U Sports record for most career field goals. He said he’s comfortable kicking field goals up to 50 yards in length, which matches his longest kick as a Mustang.