Rookie getting his kicks

Gloucester native Mark Irvin is the top candidate to be the Renegades' kicker Friday in Montreal....

Gloucester native Mark Irvin is the top candidate to be the Renegades' kicker Friday in Montreal. He might even punt, if veteran Hank Ilesic isn't ready. (Ottawa Sun/Tony Caldwell)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:51 AM ET

It's not exactly his own backyard, but Mark Irvin will finally get a chance to kick professionally in a nearby neighborhood this week.

The majority of his support group is unlikely to be in attendance, however, as its presence is required elsewhere.

Irvin, the 27-year-old Gloucester native who is filling in for the injured Matt Kellett, will handle at least placekicking duties for the Renegades when they visit the Montreal Alouettes in a key East Division matchup Friday that can be seen (and even heard) on TSN.

It will be Irvin's fourth game, and the first that will have eyewitnesses in Ottawa, as the previous three were also played on the road (Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Winnipeg) and not available on TV.

"I'm hoping my parents get the opportunity to see the game," said Irvin, who has been good on 5-of 7 field goal tries for the Renegades. "My father is pretty sick right now ... it doesn't look like he'll be able to make it down. It's not a good week for (Irvin) people to be leaving the city.

"It's my dream," he added, when asked what kicking in the CFL has meant to his family. "And as a result, it's my parents' dream. Just as my daughter's dream would be mine."

There's a chance Irvin could also could wind up punting for the Renegades at Molson Percival Stadium, a possibility that has gained legs with the fact 45-year-old newcomer Hank Ilesic has struggled with consistency since arriving last weekend. He didn't participate in live drills for a second straight day yesterday.

"I have nothing to wear," Ilesic, who is still waiting to be fitted for pads and a helmet, said when asked why he wasn't practising with the rest of the Renegades yesterday. "It wouldn't make a difference. I've been playing since before a lot of these guys were born. It doesn't faze me (in preparations) a bit."

Asked if he was playing Friday, Ilesic replied: "Even if I knew, I wouldn't say. Why let Montreal get ready? The less they know about the opposition, the better."

FLEMING SIDELINED

With punter Pat Fleming (broken hand) on injured reserve, the 'Gades would be living dangerously not to dress Ilesic against the Als. For one thing, they don't want to have to turn to Kerry Joseph for punting duties unless it's absolutely necessary, and their quarterback would then become the backup punter. Also, should anything happen to Irvin, at least Ilesic has some experience as a kicker.

Coach Joe Paopao was stuck to name a backup kicker (from his roster) for Irvin if Ilesic wasn't to make the trip.

"I'm not telling," Paopao said playfully, "because I'm not sure I know.

"I've never been on a team that had four kickers," he added on a more serious note. "But if Hank doesn't go, we'll have somebody. We have names, I just don't want to put them on the spot right now."

Irvin punted five seasons for the Mount Allison Mounties and was twice ranked on the CIS top 10 list, but he hasn't done so in a game situation for a year and a half, when he was in the Empire Football League.

Yesterday, while practising alone and not rushed or with anyone in his face, he consistently punted the ball from sideline to sideline -- an area covering 65 yards.

Speaking with reporters later, the rookie Irvin shrugged off any personal pressure a game with the Als would figure to place on his shoulders, or the distinct possibility his next game could be his last for Ottawa. His status depends on when Kellett, a six-year CFL veteran, recovers from a groin injury as well as the availability of highly touted Renegades draft pick Shaun Suisham, who was cut Monday by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Paopao talked with Suisham's agent yesterday and was told three other NFL teams are showing strong interest in the former Bowling Green star.

"He's waiting, he's not an option this week," Paopao said of Suisham. "Anytime you last this long (before being cut), you're going to get interest."

Irvin, meanwhile, maintains he is only interested in helping the Renegades win.

"I'm not worried if there is one or 50 kickers here," he said. "I don't see it as if I miss (a field goal) I could lose my job, I see it as I am missing a chance to get us three points and because of it, we might lose. My job is inconsequential compared to what the team does.

"This is a dream come true for me. Would I rather be in an office wearing a suit or out here in shorts and kicking a ball for a living? I'm enjoying this. When Matt and Pat are back and all the other factors come into play, the coach will make a decision on what happens to me, and I'll agree with it 100%."

Words that would make any father proud, no doubt.


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