Perfect again: Canadian kicker Lirim Hajrullahu makes first two career NFL field goals

Photo courtesy: Carolina Panthers

Lirim Hajrullahu made his first career NFL field goal attempt on Sunday, booting a 24-yarder midway through the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He also connected on a 29-yard attempt early in the second quarter, finishing the game a perfect two-for-two. The Bucs won the game 32-6, improving their record to 11-4 to remain atop the NFC South.

Hajrullahu signed with the Panthers on Tuesday after veteran Zane Gonzalez was injured during warmups last week. By pure coincidence, former CFL all-star receiver Brandon Zylstra to serve as the emergency kicker in Carolina’s loss to the Buffalo Bills after Gonzalez went down.

Hajrullahu dressed for the Dallas Cowboys in November and was perfect, making all five of his point-after attempts and booting touchbacks on each of his seven kickoffs. He said he “didn’t feel any jitters” following the performance as he had played in major games north of the border before.

The Western University product played in all 18 regular season games with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 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.

He 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).

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.