Cable guy puts his best foot forward for Leos
B.C. Lions sign young kicker Steve Shott but he’ll have a tough time taking veteran Paul McCallum’s job
The idea that Steve Shott will be the eventual kicker with the B.C. Lions is still a pretty tough sell, especially considering he only started his CFL career Monday, which puts him roughly 23 years of experience behind Paul McCallum, plus the fact every other proposed replacement lately has wound up elsewhere.
Make no mistake, Shott knows something about selling, too.
But long shots occasionally pay off in places other than the racetrack, and with his talented foot finally inside the Lions locker-room door for the first time in the regular season, the kicker who was the odd man out in training camp perhaps could be the eventual survivor in one of the longest-running succession plans in modern three-down history.
The formula was formally reshuffled Monday when Shott signed a Lions practice roster agreement and Hugh O’Neill, the former heir (or hair) apparent who was released last week, quickly signed with his hometown Edmonton Eskimos.
Shott tried selling himself to the Lions at training camp in this spring, much as he did four seasons ago before back surgery temporarily sidelined his career and he went back to kicking for the Okanagan Sun of the B.C. Junior Conference.
But with no place to hide a third kicker, even if he had the biggest leg on the roster in Kamloops this year, the Lions cut the Carson Graham grad, who began a sales career of a different order.
He practised kicking, mostly by himself, at home and in the evenings sold Internet and cable subscriptions for Shaw Communications.
Until the Lions cut O’Neill, the only remaining football option for Shott was to play at UBC.
He was within an hour or two last week of committing to a year at the CIS school before the switch was made, which explains the quickness in which general manager Wally Buono dealt with O’Neill’s contract.
But mental toughness is more than half the battle for a kicker, so Shott was merely sharpening himself for the future by staying focused on the present.
“Getting cut was devastating,” said Shott, who had run out of junior eligibility. “But it wasn’t discouraging. I never really got down on myself. I had an all-right camp. I have the leg strength. I need to work on consistency.”
Kicking behind 43-year-old McCallum can be a challenge beyond the fact he’s generally chased players away because of his longevity. Few know that better than Sean Whyte, who was traded for a first-round draft pick by the Lions and will line up against his former team Thursday for the Montreal Alouettes.
Since leaving the Lions, White Rock’s Whyte has benefited greatly from being his own man in Montreal after apprenticing under McCallum. He has hit on 87 per cent of his field-goal attempts this year.
But as was the case with Whyte, if Shott is going to receive pointers on matters on and off the field, it will come from kicking consultant Don Sweet. McCallum’s advice to Shott will be polite, but short and to the point.
“If a kid’s having trouble I’ll say try this or that. But I’m not here to coach per se,” said McCallum, like Shott a kicker who operates without an agent. “How I learned was by watching. I know (they’re) going to take the job eventually. Let’s go out and compete. It’s not our decision anyway.”
That call belongs to coach Mike Benevides, who won’t have to make that move for another year or two at least if injuries don’t get the better of McCallum, a 78 per-center on the year but who hasn’t connected on anything longer than a 37-yard field goal so far.
And Benevides is fine if the mentoring process doesn’t involve a teammate.
“I can’t ask (McCallum) to do that. That’s something he’s got to feel in his heart that he owes it to the game or that young man to do that.
“He’s still a competitor. It’s still his job.”
And for now, Shott has two jobs, including one in his chosen field.
“I’m in the system. They’re giving me a chance to work on my craft,” he said. “It’s up to me to meet the expectations.”
At least the cable guy won’t feel the burden of having to sell Internet bundle packages as much as he did last week.
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