Underwear affair

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Never kick a man when he's down. Words to live by, of course, unless the chap with his back on the ground also happens to be a kicker.

A good-natured one, to boot. Then it's quite all right, in fact, even encouraged.

Case in point is the Stampeders' deflating loss in Toronto a month ago.

That night, usually upbeat rookie placekicker Sandro DeAngelis, still dragging his bottom lip after missing a 54-yard roll-of-the-dice boot with the game on the line, suffered an additional slight inflicted by teammates.

Upon returning to the locker-room, the Niagara Falls, Ont., native found something amiss with his underwear. His Fruit-Of-The-Looms, in fact, were bludgeoned beyond recognition.

The punch line to the practical joke was magnified when DeAngelis's understandably vocal, expletive-deleted reaction was captured on national TV as a backdrop to head coach Tom Higgins' post-game interviews.

Three weeks later, DeAngelis discovered a rubber mouse in his Hamilton hotel bed, a prank captured on video, while just two days ago in the Stamps locker-room he received a touching gift. There at his stall sat a brand spanking new pair of underwear, a teammate apparently extending an olive branch.

One catch, though, as the fresh white undies were small enough to fit snugly on a two-year-old boy.

"They're all really harmless things that help break up the monotony of the season and also builds team unity in some kind of funny, ridiculous way," says DeAngelis, just 5-ft. 8-in., 195-lb.

"Sure, results help with fitting in but they've been good to me since Day 1, took me in and they have been great ever since."

Great would also describe DeAngelis's overall on-field performance this season, despite a mid-season lull.

After opening the year connecting on his first 11 field goals, never missing until Week 5, DeAngelis suffered some mid-season struggles while fighting off a sore plant leg.

He has since improved his record to 30-of-40 (75%), third-best in the CFL. The Toronto miss came just a week after splitting the uprights from

38 yards to win in Montreal. Last week, he connected on five of six kicks in beating Ottawa while the Alouettes are next on the horizon tomorrow at McMahon Stadium.

"The first eight weeks of the season I was waking up excited like it was Christmas, just to go to practice," says the 24-year-old DeAngelis. "Now I'm still excited but it's not quite Christmas and these are things I needed to learn to pace myself. It's a valuable lesson because hopefully next year I'll do better.

"We've played 15 games, including pre-season, in such a short amount of time, I felt myself mentally and physically exhausted for a couple of weeks. We kick on the artificial turf every morning and

I started to experience some pain in my plant leg, so it's a combination of things including a little bit of burnout."

DeAngelis's induction to the pro ranks came after four seasons at Nebraska where the schedule was just a dozen games, always spaced a week apart.

The hectic CFL slate, coupled with pressure to assume a role that was earmarked as a trouble spot in training camp, has taken its toll.

But DeAngelis has not only survived but thrived.

"I've had some pretty long misses and in some pretty difficult situations," DeAngelis explains. "With that said, I'm very pleased that coach Higgins has the confidence in me and doesn't hesitate to send me out in those situations even if it is a long one because I think he believes in me and knows I can get the job done.

"I just need to learn to be professional, that this is not a sprint but a marathon and you need to pace yourself."

DeAngelis's up-and-down odyssey this season is something Higgins has witnessed before, something the coach likes to call 'challenges.'

As usual, he's confident his rookie placekicker will continue producing.

"A lot of first-year players or first-year pros hit a wall because they've never played this long a season," Higgins says.

"He hit a little bit of a wall but now he's gotten to a place where he's worked himself through it."


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