SPORTS

Rookie kicker Steven Shott aims to learn by watching McCallum in action

08/19/2013 08:28 EDT | Updated 10/19/2013 05:12 EDT
SURREY, B.C. - Steve Shott is not giving up his day job as he pursues his CFL dream one more time with the B.C. Lions.

And that's a good thing, because the Lions (5-2) will again be relying on veteran Paul McCallum when they visit the struggling Montreal Alouettes (2-5).

Shott, a rookie kicker who had his first workout with the Lions on Monday after being added to the practice roster, will continue to work for Shaw Communications, helping customers over the phone, while he serves as McCallum's latest understudy.

"I keep working part-time for now, just so I can keep my job in the off-season," said Shott after a practice at the Lions practice facility.

The Lions released Shott, who came up through the junior ranks with the Kelowna-based Okanagan Sun, in the pre-season. But they decided to give the 23-year-old North Vancouver, B.C., native another shot — pardon the pun — after parting ways with Hugh O'Neill last week following his two-plus seasons as B.C.'s kicker-in-waiting.

The Lions punted O'Neill, a 23-year-old Edmonton native who signed with his hometown club Monday, after they could not come to terms on a contract extension. The new Lions kicker was aware that O'Neill planned to become a free agent in February and had an inkling he could be back with the Lions this season.

Shott kicked after Lions practices at their facility with tutoring from former Montreal Alouettes legend Don Sweet, who assists kickers privately and also serves as a consultant for the Lions.

"I was always kind of talking with them a little bit," said Shott, who declined an offer to join the UBC Thunderbirds just before their training camp started Friday.

"So I knew it wasn't necessarily that I wasn't good enough at the time. I think they didn't really have room for three kickers. I think they see potential in me. (It's) just basically up to me to work hard to meet those expectations that they have."

The ultimate expectation is to be able to replace 43-year-old McCallum, the CFL's oldest player. But based on a succession of kickers that have served as his protege in recent years, from Sean Whyte, who now kicks for the Alouettes, to O'Neill, there is no guarantee that he will eventually be the chosen one, considering the way that McCallum keeps on kicking.

There is no guarantee, either, that McCallum will help Shott extensively. Maintaining an approach that he took with O'Neill, the veteran will answer questions when asked, but does not see it as his job to mentor the rookie.

Shott said he understands McCallum's view and hopes to learn just by watching.

"I don't really expect him to be necessarily correcting me on every kick or giving me all his secrets," said Shott. "But, I think, just from watching him as well, I can learn a lot, too. So just being around (him) is helpful in itself."

McCallum bases his approach on the willingness of B.C. legend Lui Passaglia, who spent 25 years with the Lions, to help him — and the desire to keep his own career going.

"I've been other places with other kickers where, I show up and, all of a sudden, they don't talk," said McCallum, who has also kicked for the now-defunct Ottawa Rough Riders and Saskatchewan.

"They did take it personally, and I don't take it personally, and I've explained that to (Whyte and O'Neill.) … It's a business and it's not a personal thing."

Right now, business is good for McCallum. Dating to last season, he has made 26 of 28 field-goal attempts. This season, he has connected on seven of nine and punted for a 40.7-yard average on 24 attempts.

McCallum has overcome a groin injury that kept him out of B.C.'s two pre-season games and first two regular-season games, and eased concerns about possible wear and tear on his aging right kicking leg. He understands that someone better will eventually come along and replace him, but realizes he is not the one who will choose his successor.

In the meantime, McCallum will attempt to build on his strong season as the Lions attempt to take advantage of a Montreal club that will be without quarterback Anthony Calvillo, who is recuperating from a head injury suffered against Saskatchewan.

The Lions are also looking to maintain momentum after their big win last weekend over the Stampeders, which eased the pain of losses to Calgary in this year's season opener and the 2012 Western Final.

"Our special teams did really well," said McCallum. "Hopefully, we keep going the way we were last week, keep improving. This team is a very good team, but I don't think we've played anywhere close to our potential."

Quarterback Travis Lulay holds a similar view of the offence, which struggled in the second half against Calgary, earning just five points off a McCallum field goal and a safety — after the unit got off to slow starts in earlier games.

"Consistently throughout (the game in previous contests), I don't think we were up to our standards," said Lulay. "We need to be better this week."

The task will be difficult because the Lions have a short practice week and will have to complete preparations in Montreal. While Lulay studies what the Lions can do better, coach Mike Benevides will do further video review on Alouettes backup quarterback Josh Neiswander, a third-year CFLer who is expected to make his first start after seeing his inaugural action against Saskatchewan.

Ironically, Benevides expressed disappointment that his club could not face Calvillo.

"There's a level of excitement when we play him because, really, he's so good and so competitive," said Benevides.

Notes: Calvillo was one of eight Alouettes injured in their loss to Saskatchewan on Saturday. … The Lions did not suffer any significant health problems in their win over Calgary.

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