Best foot backward

Calgary Stampeders head coach Tom Higgins in a January 14, 2005 file photo. (SUN/Darren Makowichuk)

Calgary Stampeders head coach Tom Higgins in a January 14, 2005 file photo. (SUN/Darren Makowichuk)

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

If Tony Martino has his way, the kicking party will return to McMahon Stadium this season. The former Calgary Stampeders punter reveals he has worked out for new head coach Tom Higgins and is willing to return to the CFL.

And there is an outside chance Wall of Fame field-goal kicker Mark McLoughlin, who has talked to Higgins about returning, could reunite with Martino on the Stamps.

The pair were notorious for their fun-loving ways from 1992 to 2000 when both were mainstays with the club. Martino would have a new group of players on whom he could play his standard practical jokes.

"It would probably take me a week to get them in line," Martino said with a laugh.

The 38-year-old hasn't played since 2002 when he was with the B.C. Lions.

In fact, he hasn't even kicked much during that time. He has been spending most of his time working at his family's company, Martino Insurance.

That didn't stop him from booting some impressive drives for Higgins during a recent informal workout.

"I was kicking for 15 years in the CFL," Martino said. "It's just like riding a bike. I hadn't picked up a ball in a long time.

"I went out and kicked once then went out and kicked for Tom. I was consistently hitting them 50 yards and directing them. That's what Tom is looking for, somebody who is good at directing kicks."

While Martino is likely to meet with Higgins again this week to possibly discuss a contract, McLoughlin seems more of a longshot to return.

His contact with Higgins about possibly ending his retirement is more of a contingency plan if a strong alternative isn't found, either through the CFL Canadian draft or free agency.

But the chance to work with Martino again does intrigue McLoughlin.

The kickers were good friends on and off the field and had some memorable road trips together.

McLoughlin wouldn't mind reliving old times.

"That was the problem," he said.

"It was too crazy. We had way too much fun together.

"You never say never but, at this point, it certainly doesn't look it will happen. It may work out differently for Tony. There may be an opportunity for him depending on what the club is planning with the punting game. He would be a great addition for them."

The Stamps used two import kickers last season and would like to find a Canadian to do all three jobs -- field goals, punting and kickoffs. The problem is there aren't many good ones out there.

Martino's theory is there wasn't much opportunity to groom young kickers because the jobs were held by veterans like Paul Osbaldiston, Lui Passaglia and Bob Cameron. Now there's a lack of talent.

So he's kept himself in shape by working out with a personal trainer and feels he and McLoughlin could bridge the gap until a replacement emerges.

"I feel better than I have in a long time," Martino said. "The rest did my leg some good. I never really retired. I was just busy working and enjoying summer. I always said if the right situation came up, I would come back.

"Hopefully this works out."


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