Calgary Stampeders' Rene Paredes
can best be understood if we first make a stop over in B.C.
Lui Passaglia spent 25 years with the Lions in the Canadian Football League
watching kicks sail towards yonder goal posts, wondering if he'd be facing a short trot or a long trudge back to a bench basically the same distance away.
It all depended on whether that ball split the uprights, in any form or fashion, or sailed wide right or wide left. And, on how good your timing was.
"If you miss one during the game, you always have the opportunity to redeem yourself, so the bench isn't that far away," said Passaglia, on the phone from Coquitlam, B.C. "But if you miss one at the end of the game, or at a crucial point in the game, then the bench seems to be on the other side of the stadium."
Over the quarter century, he nailed 875 of 1,203 field goal attempts and added 133,826 yards in punts. So, he knows.
"You go [to the bench after a miss], nobody really wants to talk to you and you sit there thinking about why you missed, and so forth. It's going through your head. And, it's not like another player who can go out and redeem himself [right away]."
That's the trouble with being a kicker. A chance to show that last one was an aberration, a mere bump on a long highway of smooth success, an exception to the rule, may come on the next possession or it might be a week away or, good heavens, it might not be until the following season.
Back in 1994, Passaglia faced being the most hated man in the lower mainland for about a minute and two seconds after he missed a 37-yarder in the Grey Cup game vs. the Baltimore Stallions at B.C. Place that would have won the thing for the Lions.
But the defence held, the offence quickly moved back into range and, with :00 on the clock, he placed a 38-yarder through to win it.
"You know what, it would have been a long off-season if I had missed that field goal, and who knows the ramifications of a kick like that to a kicker?"
Bringing us back to southern Alberta, where Paredes, born in Venezuela and raised in Quebec, is having a season flirting with the ages.
Through Week 15, he had made 41 of 43 kicks (missing once each in two games with Toronto) for 95.3 per cent. If he goes without a miss through the final four games, Paredes will pass Paul McCallum's just-set 2011 mark
of 94.3 per cent.
Passaglia, of note, held the mark for 11 years until McCallum passed it. And, in an era where there are now less kicks outside the 40 because coaches are more field position oriented, the new record holder had more hits outside of 40 yards than Lui did.
Paredes set the CFL record this season
for most consecutive field goals (39) and holds the all-time pro record, regular season and playoffs, of 47.
What seems to drive the men whose entire job is to wait for the guys who beat each other up for a living to summon them in, is quite simple.
Fear. Fear of missing. Especially fear of missing a potential game winner.
"Your only job is to make field goals, and if not you are going to lose your job," said Paredes, down the line from Calgary where a happy, winning dressing room was breaking out behind him following practice.
"That's why it's so important to kickers [because] three points can come down to a lot -- win the game, tie the game, or ..."
"... or whatever it is."
Paredes can't even bring himself, as a kicker, to say it. Lose a game. You could lose your team, the one that only sends you out there when it thinks three points are pretty much in the bag, a contest.
No one wants to go back to the bench and face that. It's a long way to go.
"I understood that from my first year," he says, of 2011 when the Concordia graduate was 35 of 45. "You try not to hide [when you go back to the sideline]. I find if you hide away and start to think about the missed kick, you'll miss the next one."
Short memory -- the ability to quickly block out the last one and think about the next -- is the key to success.
"For example, when I missed my 22-yarder to stop the streak [against Toronto], my next one was a 42," Paredes points out.
The position most like a kicker in sports would be the closer in baseball, where eight innings of hard, winning work by everyone else can go down the tubes on a single pitch.
"You get paid to save games," says Passaglia. "A kicker gets paid to make key field goals, and it doesn't take long for that to sink into a guy."
Passaglia is having a great time watching the young Stamps kicker do his thing this year, and he knows exactly what advice he'd give, if asked.
"Just stay the course ... run your string out as long as you can, whatever he's doing stick with it. It's a mental frame of mind."
And, be ready for when things go a little south, because they almost certainly will.
"Not every year is going to be a 90 per cent," says Passaglia, who had more than half-a-dozen years in the 60s. "You might be out there with an injury, or you might be having a problem with technique.
"I was fortunate when years were mediocre at best -- sometimes I was injured and still went out there and kicked -- but the coaches stuck with me and, over the 25 years, I found a way to redeem myself."
Of course, if you don't miss, there's nothing to redeem. That seems to be the approach Paredes is taking to this point.
And besides, if you're perfect, you never have to walk back past head coach John Hufnagel when he's in a bad mood. No one wants to do that.
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