Goin' down kicking

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:00 PM ET

Sean Fleming survived a 17-minute media conference without any tears.

But that was yesterday -- without a dramatic backdrop of 40,000 fans at Commonwealth Stadium.

The 16-year Edmonton Eskimos kicker could easily have tears in eyes late tonight when he walks off the Commonwealth Stadium grass for the final time.

After announcing he will retire at the end of this season, this evening's tilt with the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be the final home game in Fleming's impressive career.

"To be honest, it feels like a regular game," said Fleming yesterday afternoon.

"I'm sure during the game and afterwards it will probably hit me. But being in the position I am, as a kicker I have had years of blocking out pressure, dealing with pressure and dealing with emotion.

"So far this year I have been able to keep that in check."

The one exception came last week when Fleming sat still in his locker stall with a very frustrated look on his face in the visitors' dressing room at B.C. Place after another ugly loss.

Fleming has now admitted he had some tears in his eyes -- out of view of the media -- after that defeat in front of family and friends.

Retiring because he no longer wants to juggle kicking with his job at pricewaterhousecoopers, the Burnaby, B.C., native is still on top of his game.

The 37-year-old has a good chance of being the West Division all-star punter (44.6-yard average) and is currently leading the CFL scoring race with 150 points.

That explains why Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia still wants Fleming to change his mind.

"See you at camp next year," cracked Maciocia to Fleming at the end of his media conference yesterday.

That is not going to happen.

In fact, this could be the last game Fleming ever plays for the Esks.

Although Edmonton has two regular-season games remaining, if the Esks are knocked out of playoff contention this weekend, Fleming has admitted he wouldn't stand in the way of rookie/heir apparent Warren Kean handling the chores in Hamilton to the end the year.

Regardless, Fleming is going to miss the life in the locker-room.

"It seemed early on (in) my career we had a whole ton of funny characters in our locker-room: Donnie Wilson, Gizmo Williams, Jed Roberts, Larry Wruck, Bennie Goods, Blake Dermott," said Fleming.

"We always had a lot of fun in the locker-room and I think that is an important part of being successful. It has been an honour to play with them (the Eskimo greats)."

Being the Eskimos all-time leader in points, field goals and punt yardage, Fleming is also one of the all-time greats.

There will be no fancy on-field ceremony tonight -- that will come down the road.

A spot on the Eskimos Wall of Fame is a certainty. So is another farewell media conference next month, with Hugh Campbell present.

It was Campbell who persuaded Fleming not to sign with the B.C. Lions in 1999 for more money.

Now, Fleming will say goodbye to the hometown fans in his 266th regular-season game with the Green and Gold.

"Obviously I have had my ups and downs in my career, gone through slumps," said Fleming, who has had his share of fans on his case.

"But the one thing that I am proud of is I have never stuck my head in the sand and I have always been able to fight through that and come through for the team and the fans when they needed me."


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