Former Edmonton Eskimos kicker Swayze Waters pivotal in solidifying club's playoff picture
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
|Swayze Waters, who was briefly on the Edmonton Eskimos roster before being picked up by the Toronto Argonauts, kicked the field goal last week that eliminated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from the CFL playoffs, clinching the Esks' post-season berth. (Reuters)
TORONTO - If you look past Ricky Ray vs Kerry Joseph and Matt Nichols, if you look beyond Chad Owens vs. Fred Stamps, what have you got?
Swayze Waters versus Grant Shaw?
The guy who made a 51-yard field goal on the final play of the game here against Hamilton at the end of the year to get the Edmonton Eskimos their playoff position in the first place, versus the guy who missed three end-of-the-game field goal attempts, two in the Labour Day doubleheader?
One guy who used to be an Eskimos versus one guy who used to be an Argo?
So much of the focus on the crossover East Division semifinal has been on quarterback vs. quarterback and for more than the usual reasons.
And then there’s the battle of the league’s top two receivers.
Owens is up as the East Division finalist for the Gibson’s Finest Most Outstanding Player. Stamps finished only 18 yards behind him in second place in receiving-yards statistics, with a performance that Argos coach Scott Milanovich labelled as being “unstoppable in the second half of the season.”
But if it comes down to the field-goal kickers at the end of the game Sunday in Rogers Centre, it gets very interesting.
With Steven Jyles reduced to third-string status and staring unemployment in the face at the end of the season, the great Eric Tillman Trade is now essentially Ricky Ray straight up for kicker Grant Shaw.
Shaw is an Edmonton product who came home, and Waters is an Eskimos find who was released and found employment with the Argos.
Waters goes into the East semifinal having made 10 of his last 11, including the final-play 51-yard field goal in the Argos 43-40 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, which provided Edmonton with this crossover playoff game.
If Waters had missed that kick, it’s likely the Eskimos would have been a week into their off-season.
“Swayze is an outstanding kicker and punter who is equally impressive in terms of character,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed when the team landed here Friday.
“He did an outstanding job while he was with us. We were not able to keep him because, wanting to start two American tackles on the offensive line, it just made the the ratio management too difficult. Grant Shaw and Burke Dales were easier to manage.”
Milanovich, when his practice was complete here yesterday, said Waters has been a study for his team.
“His leg strength is tremendous,” said the rookie head coach who just had his contract extended.
“He can kick from the kind of distances that, if I call for a field goal, I may not know if he’s going to get it in but I know he’s going to get it there. And, lately, if it’s inside the 50, it’s three points.”
Waters went to talk to his parents, Joe and Susan, and wife Kendal, who arrived in Toronto at Rogers Centre in time to catch the end of practice.
“It’s their first time in Canada and first time at a game,” said the Jackson, a Mississippi product whose best friend’s dad was fired Eskimos’ GM Eric Tillman’s best friend growing up.
Waters swears he has no hard feelings about the Eskimos cutting him. Indeed, he said, it added to his education.
“It was a learning experience to find out about the ratio thing,” he said of the limit of the number of imports each team can put on the roster for each game.
“I was able to laugh about it, telling people I’ve been released for a lot of reasons in my career but that was a new one,” said the kicker who spent time with Detroit, Oakland, Pittsburgh and the New York Jets in the NFL before being brought to Edmonton.
“I considered it an honour, a blessing and a great opportunity to be up here as an import kicker. No other import is in this league right now. Being an import kicking in the CFL is pretty much a week-to-week, kick-to-kick occupation.
“I was on the active roster and prepared to play every game with the Eskimos but was a pre-game decision because of the ratio every game.
“When I was released I bought a little cheap fishing boat, ready to do some fishing during the rest of the summer when Jim Barker called from Toronto. Now I’m here with a chance to play in the 100th Grey Cup.”
Waters admits he knew the situation when he stepped up to the ball to kick the field goal that clinched Edmonton’s playoff spot.
“I wasn’t thinking about that. But when I got to the locker room and turned on my cellphone after the game, there was a message from long snapper Mike Benson with the text message saying, ‘Thanks!’ “
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