- Free Agency
It’s a sequence Calgary Stampeder placekicker Rene Paredes keeps replaying in his mind.
The final seconds are ticking off the clock at the Rogers Centre Sunday. Calgary is trailing by two points. Paredes must make a field goal to give the Stampeders a win over the Toronto Argonauts in the 100th Grey Cup.
“I visualize my kick and swing,” Parades said after a Stampeder practice this week. “I visualize the ball going in between the posts.”
Paredes showed this CFL season that once he puts his mind to it, he rarely misses. The second-year kicker was good on 40 of 43 field goals this year. His 93-per-cent accuracy rate came close to the record of 94.3 per cent set by B.C.’s Paul McCallum last year.
It also was a huge improvement from his rookie 2011 season when he was good on 35 of 45 field goals for a 77.8 per cent completion rate.
“The main thing is I felt more comfortable than last year,” said Paredes. “It was my first year. I came in Week Two and they threw me out there.
“This time I had the whole off-season to train and prepare mentally and physically for the season. It worked out well. Don Sweet (a former CFL kicker) helped me out a lot. That was one of the key factors.”
Mark Kilam, Calgary’s special teams co-ordinator, has seen the difference in Paredes.
“He came in off the street last year, ended up being the kicker, and did a good job all year,” said Kilam.
“He won the job in training camp (this year). Those kind of things will bring confidence. His performance this whole year would be something to be confident about as well.”
One of Paredes’ three misses this year was a 51-yard attempt at Rogers Centre.
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“I didn’t warm up, I was rushed,” he said. “I wish I could take that one back.”
In the dome, Paredes believes he could hit from 55 yards.
Just making it to professional football was a test of Paredes’ belief in himself.
The 27-year-old played his college football with the Concordia Stingers of the Quebec University Football League. He was among the top three field-goal kickers in the country in each of his last two seasons. In 2008, his final season, he was good on 18 of 22 attempts.
After college Paredes waited for his chance. He attended the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ training camp in 2011, even dressed for a pre-season game, but knew he had a slim chance of unseating Justin Palardy.
“They told me I was there to push Palardy,” Paredes said. “They were going with Palardy the whole time.
“They cut me.”
Paredes went home and waited by the telephone. It rang after Calgary’s Rob Maver was injured in the second week of the season.
Paredes was flown to Calgary where he faced three other kickers in a one-day derby for the job. Things didn’t start out well when Paredes had an ugly miss on his first attempt of a short field goal. After that he collected himself and kicked well enough to win the job.
“I knew I was the best one there,” he said. “It was a matter of showing it and the coaches seeing it.”
Any questions about Paredes were answered in his CFL debut against B.C. His first professional field goal attempt was a 50-yard kick, which he made. He ended the night with 10 points.
“It was surreal,” said Paredes. “It’s every kicker’s dream.
“To go in there and kick a 50-yarder is incredible. I couldn’t believe it. To this day I still think about it. I’m grateful it happened.”
The memory of that night still brings a smile from John Hufnagel, the Stampeders’ coach and general manager.
“I can’t speak enough about the young man,” said Hufnagel. “I knew he was going to be special.
“I didn’t want his first field goal in the CFL to be at a long distance. I just had him kick a 50-yarder.”
Paredes was born in Venezuela to Peruvian parents. His family moved to Florida, then to Canada where he grew up in Pierrefonds, Que.
Paredes attended high school in Miami and played on the soccer team. One day the football coach came looking for the soccer player with the strongest leg. That’s when Paredes made the switch to kicking a ball with pointed ends.
“My first couple of years I learned by myself,” he said. “When I got to university I got better coaching.”
Kickers by nature are a different breed, a little like relief pitchers in baseball. They can spend the whole game watching from the sidelines, then get the call in the dying seconds with the game on the line.
Paredes said he’s content to be a fan for most of the game.
“I try not to think about it too much,” he said. “I watch the game, enjoy the game.
“I can’t be worried about kicking the winning field goal. I’m a very calm guy. All I do is visualize me making the kick. I don’t start worrying about what I have to do. I just go out there and do my thing.”
Kilam said Paredes can be like a ship that manages to stay on course even in stormy weather.
“That’s one of his biggest strengths, that he is a very calm, confident individual by his nature,” Kilam said.
“He comes to work every day and prepares well. That propels his confidence.”
Like any player Paredes is ready to embrace the role of hero. He would welcoming joining the list of kickers like Dave Ridgway, Lui Passaglia, Mark McLoughlin and Damon Duval who won Grey Cups for their team with last-minute field goals.
But Paredes won’t be disappointed if the Stampeders have a win sewn up long before the final gun.
“I do like the challenge,” he said. “But at the end of the day . . . we want to come out and win the game with no stress in the last two seconds for anybody.”