Fraser Caldwell | Ticats.ca
HAMILTON -- He doesn’t want to dwell, but Luca Congi can hardly dodge the topic of his success forever.
The Ticats veteran kicker has been virtually lights-out from seven yards behind centre this season, converting 27 of his 29 field goal attempts for an astonishing 93.1 per cent efficiency.
Should he maintain that rate, it would log as the second-highest percentage in CFL history, behind only Paul McCallum’s legendary mark of 94.3 achieved a year ago. Exceeding McCallum’s exceptional 2011 campaign is still within the realm of possibility for Congi at this point.
With four perfect attempts in Winnipeg, the Ticat has now made good on 19 consecutive field goals.
His efforts have been consistent and impressive this season, earning Congi the undisputed trust of his coach. But the Ticat is hesitant to discuss his performance or bask in his success.
Paul Osbaldiston – the Ticats all-time leading scorer and now kicking coach – gives a clue as to why that might be.
“When you’re kicking or coaching kicking, the less you talk about it, the better,” says the man affectionately known as “Ozzie” by the Ticats faithful.
“He’s a veteran guy, so he understands that it’s about what you do on every kick. No matter if you’re having a good year or bad year – whether you’ve hit 10 in a row or you’ve missed one – you have to look forward to the next one.”
Congi explains his exceptional season as simply a product of the effort put forth on the practice field. But he’s quick to deflect any praise or talk of a streak.
“You shouldn’t be surprised when you work hard and put in the time,” says the sixth-year CFLer. “You should expect the results.”
“For me, I don’t really look at that stuff in terms of the streak or the percentage or stats. It’s about helping the team win.”
Congi is uncomfortable with the attention, but there is no doubt that it is deserved.
A team that lost their standout kicker of a year ago – Justin Medlock – to the NFL has been blessed with the arrival of another veteran thriving in Black and Gold.
Osbaldiston suggests that much of Congi’s success can be traced to his attitude, tempered as it was by a year spent involuntarily removed from football.
“He’s been successful in the past and he had the game taken away from him due to injury,” says the coach. “When that happens to a football player, when you get back on the field a lot of times it’s like a rebirth.”
“You start to appreciate everything more from day to day, because you understand how quickly the game can be taken away from you.”
The result is determination – an approach to the game on Congi’s part that takes no opportunity for granted.
“He has turned into a perfectionist and every kick is enjoyable to him because he understands the value of being on the field,” Osbaldiston continues.
“When that happens a lot of times, it can turn a really good football player into a great one or an average football player into a good one.”
His play this year suggests that Congi is making that transition to greatness.
But the process of kicking is not a solitary duty, and the Ticat placekicker has enjoyed dependable help this season from long snapper Kevin Scott and holder Andy Fantuz.
“As a kicker, you’re only as good as your snapper and your holder,” Congi argues.
“Andy and Kevin have been doing a great job for me and they’ve been staying out here after practice to get extra work in and get our timing and rhythm down.”
Osbaldiston explains that while the duties of the snapper and holder are rarely remarked upon, their efficiency has a huge impact on the kicker they serve alongside.
“If you have a centre or a holder that costs you one kick out of 10, that’s ten per cent,” says the coach.
“We as kickers never say anything. When we miss a field goal – for whatever reason – it’s always on our shoulders.”
“We’re fortunate to have two guys who do want to work at it with Luca. That’s huge, because if you don’t have those guys out every day and taking as much pride in what they do, it translates into Luca not being able to do his job as well as he wants to.”
Congi is having no such problem right now.
But don’t tell him about it, because, as Osbaldiston points out, there is always another kick to be made.
“It’s always the next kick that matters the most.”