Newcomer feels the heat

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

KEMPTVILLE -- Another scorcher at the Renegades training camp wasn't the ideal situation for a 38-year-old construction worker and left-footed kicker trying to get back in shape to crack the lineup of a football team.

Yesterday's muggy weather made it tough for placekicker Bjorn Nittmo, who arrived in Ottawa on Friday night before being evaluated by the team's brass after morning practice at Kemptville College.

Lonie Glieberman, the new team president, stood beside Forrest Gregg, the VP of football operations, in the end zone to watch the session, while coach Joe Paopao had a look at Nittmo from the sidelines.

"I didn't know there was going to be any running," a panting Nittmo told special teams coach Jim Clark, who made the newcomer perform a couple of sprints before the evaluation concluded.

Nittmo -- born in Sweden, he turns 39 next month -- has been reunited with the Gliebermans who owned the CFL's Shreveport Pirates when he played there during the 1995 season.

An unexpected placekicking problem has forced the Renegades to import the former NFLer who has not played professionally since the 2001 Arena Football League season for the Carolina Cobras.

Nittmo, who works as a construction supervisor in Arizona, got a call from Gregg, who coached the Shreveport club for the Gliebermans 10 years ago.

'A GOOD THING'

"He had a good thing when he saw it last time," said Nittmo. "He chased me down and asked me if I was interested. Any time you can play a game for fun, why not?"

While it might be fun for Nittmo, the Renegades aren't laughing at the state of their kicking game.

At the start of camp, Sandro Sciortino and Matt Kellett were supposed to battle for the placekicking chores.

But Sciortino, who recovered from cancer during the off-season, retired last month. And Kellett is seeing double in his right eye, a problem that surfaced last year. He will have the eye examined again tomorrow.

Pat Fleming, the Kanata native who has served as the Renegades punter for the past two seasons, kicked field goals during Thursday's 27-16 exhibition victory over the Alouettes in Montreal, making 2-of-3 attempts.

Now it's Nittmo's turn to show what he can do.

He played collegiately for Appalachian State and suited up for the NFL's New York Giants in 1989.

His biggest claim to fame, however, came from talk show host David Letterman, who often made on-air jokes about Nittmo's name. He later made two guest appearances on the show.

Nittmo has played in various locales and football leagues since his time in New York, including a stint with the Montreal Machine of the World League of American Football.

In Shreveport, he was viewed as one of the CFL's most consistent kickers. He once booted seven field goals against Birmingham.

Yesterday, even after four years away from competition, Nittmo said he can still do the job.

"The leg isn't the issue. The issue is getting back into shape," he said.

IMPORT ISSUE

The issue for the Renegades is whether they can afford to have an American placekicker, considering their Canadian talent at other positions is already thin after the departure of several homegrowns during the off-season.

"If we have to, we're going to have to," said Paopao. "It will affect our cuts."

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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