Canadian kicker Lirim Hajrullahu wasn’t bothered by the bright lights that come with playing for the Dallas Cowboys deep in the heart of Texas.
The 31-year-old Hajrullahu made his NFL debut in Week 10 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX after trying for two years to earn a spot on a game day roster south of the border.
“Just grateful that I got the opportunity to play a real regular season game,” Hajrullahu said post-game.
“It’s a great honour to be playing for the Dallas Cowboys. Overall I felt right at home, I’ve played in a lot of big games and for me I didn’t feel any jitters.”
His most clutch kick in the CFL was a 32-yard field goal at the end of the 2017 Snow Globe Grey Cup in Ottawa. That three-pointer came with less than one minute left in the game and gave the Toronto Argonauts a 27-24 win to claim the CFL championship over the favoured Calgary Stampeders.
After graduating from Western University, Hajrullahu went unselected in the 2014 CFL Draft but managed to play six seasons in Canada. He made 239-of-287 field goals (83.3 percent) with a long of 56 yards during time with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“Game tape shows my consistency, I’ve done it in other leagues, been successful in other leagues,” Hajrullahu said.
Hajrullahu was elevated from the Cowboys practice roster to replace veteran Greg Zuerlein, who is currently in COVID-19 protocol. He made all five of his point-after attempts, the ball is set at the 15-yard line in the NFL making converts the equivalent of a 32-yard field goal, while the St. Catharines native also kicked off seven times, all of which went for touchbacks.
“What I was tasked to do, I did everything the way coached asked, made all the point-afters and we were facing a really deadly returner in Cordarrelle Patterson,” Hajrullahu said.
“The whole focus this week was we can’t have him return any footballs, so I was making sure that I get the ball as deep as possible so that there was no chance for him to return. All of them were touchbacks, so I’m happy about that.”
The five-foot-eleven, 205-pounder originally signed with Dallas in August, but he was waived prior to final training camp cuts. During Week 3 of the pre-season with the Cowboys, he made both of his extra point attempts and averaged 73.3 yards on kick-offs with two touchbacks.
“I was here for pre-season, so it made for a lot easier transition. I was really happy with my trajectory throughout the game and how I was hitting the ball, that was a big plus for me,” Hajrullahu said.
“As the game went on I got really comfortable, my kicks kept getting better and better. Whatever the day called for I was prepared, whether it was all point-afters or it was all field goals.”