NEWS
11/09/2011 05:59 EST | Updated 01/09/2012 05:12 EST

B.C. Lions kicker Paul McCallum believes he can be even better next CFL season

SURREY, B.C. - As good as he was this season, Paul McCallum believes there's room for improvement.

For starters, the B.C. Lions kicker wants to reduce his number of missed field goals. Let's face it, he did miss three times this season.

"I have a little bit more work to do next year,'' McCallum said Wednesday after being named the West Division nominee as the CFL's top special-teams player.

Given McCallum's calm demeanour and no-fuss approach to life, it's hard to tell if he was joking or not.

At 41 years of age, McCallum is the CFL's oldest player but enjoyed one of his best seasons. He set a league record for kicking accuracy by hitting 50-of-53 field-goals (94.3 per cent). His misses came from 45, 47 and 57 yards out.

McCallum led the CFL in scoring with 203 points and also made a league-record 30 consecutive field goals.

"Statistically, this is the best one,'' said the 19-year veteran. "That to me is the most important statistic as a kicker, the percentage.

"It's nice to get the individual awards but we have two more games. That's how I am looking at it.''

Chad Owens of the Toronto Argonauts, who became the first player in pro football history to register consecutive seasons of 3,000 all-purpose yards, is the East Division nominee. Owens won the special-team players award last year.

The previous record for accuracy was 90.9 per cent set in 2000 by Lions kicking legend Lui Passaglia.

Passaglia remembers when McCallum attended his first training camp with the Lions in 1993.

"You always saw the potential in him,'' said Passaglia, who holds the CFL record for 3,991 points scored and 25 years played. "I always saw the glint in his eye that he could do it and that he could be better than me and better than other kickers at that time.

"He always had that persistence and he had the talent. It was just a matter of getting that opportunity.''

McCallum said Passaglia taught by example.

"There was no sit down, have a chat,'' he said. "I just kind of listened to him, watched him, saw how he carried himself.''

Not all the lessons came on the field.

"One training camp I went out with Lui,'' McCallum said with a smile. "We might have missed curfew.

"I remember getting up and not feeling so well. Lui was out there running half an hour before I got out of bed. He said to me 'If you want to go out, you have to get out here and run.' His work ethic was second to none.''

The Lions, who started the season 0-5, finished first in the West with an 11-7 record. They will face the winner of Sunday's semifinal game between the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders in the West final.

The Grey Cup will be played Nov. 27 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.

McCallum won't be the only Lion attending the Nov. 24 awards ceremony in Vancouver. Quarterback Travis Lulay is the West nominee for outstanding player while Jovan Olafioye was nominated for top offensive lineman.

There were suggestions McCallum, who grew up only a few blocks from the Lions practise facility in Surrey, B.C., also deserved to be nominated as the league's outstanding Canadian.

McCallum wasn't surprised Edmonton Eskimos tailback Jerome Messam was the West nominee after becoming the first Canadian-born player to surpass 1,000 yards rushing since 2000.

"I don't think a kicker is going to get that award,'' shrugged McCallum. "What more could I do?

"Jerome had a good season. I'm happy for him.''

From his first football practise, McCallum took ribbing that kickers aren't real players. He's long past letting that bother him.

"Whoever is looking upon it that way, that's up to them,'' he said. "There's nothing I can do about it.''

Ironically the East nominee for outstanding Canadian is Montreal Alouettes kicker Sean Whyte. The native of Surrey spent two years as McCallum's understudy before the Lions traded him to Montreal prior to this season.

During a career with B.C., Ottawa and Saskatchewan, McCallum has been a West all-star four times and an all-Canadian last season. He won the outstanding Canadian award in B.C.'s 2006 Grey Cup win when he was good on six-of-six field goals.

Passaglia said McCallum deserves recognition as one of the CFL's best kickers.

"I know in B.C. he is going to be remembered as one of the top two kickers,'' he said. "It will be up to the preference of the fans to decide who they like better, me or him.

"You can't say he hasn't performed beyond expectations. You can tell he loves what he does because he's improved at his craft every year.''

McCallum shrugs off comparisons to Passaglia.

"Lui had an amazing career,'' he said. "Lui is Lui and I am me.

"It's just coincidence I guess that two B.C. boys have played a long time.''

McCallum becomes a free agent this winter. He wants to remain a Lion but also plans to continue playing somewhere.

"I've said all along as long as I'm having fun, contributing at a high level, I want to keep playing,'' he said. "You don't get to be a professional kicker for very long so I'm just going to enjoy it as long as I can.''