VANCOUVER — Age is definitely not a state of mind with Paul McCallum.
The 43-year-old B.C. kicker will return for his 21st season in the Canadian Football League after signing a new contract Monday with the Lions.
“I don’t think I’m 43 years old, I don’t feel 43 – and, hopefully, I don’t kick like I’m 43,” said McCallum, the CFL’s oldest player, after a news conference at the team’s practice facility in Surrey, B.C.
The Vancouver native, also a residential realtor, takes each season on a year-by-year basis as he contemplates the right time to move into his second career full-time.
“I jokingly say I’ve got the rest of my life to grow up,” he said.
McCallum has felt better than he did before he started taking part in gruelling workouts with former Lions receiver Geroy Simon.
“It’s kind of ironic,” said McCallum about his longevity. “I remember Lui (Passaglia) being my age and me looking up to him and (thinking) how can he kick for that long. You blink your eyes and hear you are.”
Passaglia, pro football’s all-time leading scorer, played a record 25 CFL seasons, all with the Lions. McCallum’s career is now within the quarter-century mark in range, but he is not predicting whether he will still be putting the ball through the uprights as long as Passaglia did.
“It’s funny. When I was probably around year 17, I remember saying ‘There’s no way I’ll keeping going to 25,”’ he recalled. “But (the years) keep going by quickly. So I’m not going to look at it that way. I’m just going to take (one) season at a time. We’ll see what happens after this year.
“I’m not going to rule out (reaching the 25-season mark), but I’m not saying I’m shooting for it, either.”
McCallum played all 18 regular-season games for the Lions in 2012. The Vancouver native was successful on 44-of-52 field goal attempts. The performance was down slightly from 2011, when he connected on 50-of-53 attempts.
McCallum made 17 straight field goals to end the 2012 regular season. He was also good on all five post-season attempts to extend his playoff streak to 34 straight successful field goals.
“When you look at what he’s done in the years that he’s been here, when you look at what he’s done in the playoffs, it’s almost unbelievable that a man can be this consistent,” said Lions general manager Wally Buono. But McCallum is not targeting any upgraded numbers in the forthcoming campaign. He just wants to try and help the Lions get back to the Grey Cup after they were eliminated by Calgary in the Western Final following a 13-5 first-place finish.
“I just go out and try and do the best I can,” he said. “I don’t have any specific goals.”
Coach Mike Benevides plans to bring in another kicker to challenge McCallum and his understudy Hugh O’Neill, who is entering his third season. McCallum said he’ll welcome another kicker to handle such chores as punting and kick-offs, but only if the newcomer produces better stats than him.
Otherwise, he asked, why change?
Also on Monday, the team announced that Jarious Jackson will sign a one-day contract later this week so he can retire as a Lion. He will then join the coaching staff as a quarterbacks coach, which is a newly-created position with B.C.
The Lions are looking to provide feedback to starter Travis Lulay, his former teammate, after plays. Departed B.C. backup Mike Reilly was a close confidant of Lulay in games and practices, but the Lions do not yet have another CFL veteran QB that can provide such peer reviews.
Coach Mike Benevides said Jackson has to help Lulay execute the plays and help him mentally. The Lions now have three quarterbacks under contract, but Lulay is the only one with significant CFL experience.
“Basically, it’s one of those things where there is a built-in relationship where they know each other – they trust each other,” said Benevides.
Jackson spent seven seasons in B.C. before joining the Toronto Argonauts in 2012. He posted a 2-2 record as a starter last year.
Jackson completed 72-of-135 pass attempts for 846 yards and four touchdowns, rushed 42 times for 122 yards and three touchdowns, and served as a backup in Toronto’s Grey Cup victory over Calgary.
“I’m thrilled to be coming back to B.C. and I am very grateful to Mike Benevides for the opportunity to join the club as a coach,” Jackson said. “I have enjoyed a wonderful playing career and I’m excited about the next phase of my football life.”
Over eight CFL seasons, Jackson threw for 7,878 yards and won three Grey Cups.
As a result of Jackson’s hiring, the Lions did not renew receivers coach Travis Moore’s contract. Benevides said he did not have the budget to keep both on staff, but Moore has other options and is expected to land with another CFL team soon.
“I saw the void (coming before Reilly was traded to Edmonton) there, and I was trying to fill that void for the quarterback,” said Benevides.
He said Jackson’s presence will enable offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine to spend more time with the team’s young receiving corps.
Chapdelaine said Jackson will provide a “voice of experience” and “different set of eyes” for Lulay while allowing the co-ordinator to examine other parts of the offence.
“Jarious will, basically, be responsible for the technical aspects of the quarterback,” said Chapdelaine.
Jackson’s addition to the staff is the only other change to B.C.’s coaching staff for the 2013 campaign.
Meanwhile, the Lions have also extended their contract with the city of Kamloops to host training camp through 2014.
Note: As a result of Reilly’s departure, the Lions need to find a new holder for McCallum for the second straight season. Jackson’s release and subsequent departure to Toronto after the 2011 season forced the Lions to insert Reilly in his place.