The Last Word

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Inasmuch as you had to feel good for the guy who nailed the field goal to win $1 million, you had to feel proud for the person who helped him to do it, too.

While Brian Diesbourg showed the athletic ability to boot the 50-yarder on Thursday night at the Rogers Centre against all odds -- he's a soccer player who never has played organized football -- it likely wouldn't have happened without the help of Argos kicker Noel Prefontaine.

In only one half-hour practice session on Wednesday, Prefontaine worked with Diesbourg on how to properly address the ball. He instructed him to take three steps back and two steps to the left and then run to the ball and kick through it. Most people think the best way to kick a football is to line up directly behind it and then run up to it and blast away. And how often has the end result been a shank or a hook or a dribbler or, in the odd instance, a decent kick?

Prefontaine had Diesbourg start from the 20-yard line and gradually moved him back in various increments, allowing him to gain his confidence and an understanding of how to kick a football. And when Diesbourg failed on various attempts from 50 yards out, Prefontaine brought him back to the original 20-yard line to regain his confidence.

During the practice, Prefontaine had some of the assembled audience make some noise, simulating in a small way the conditions Diesbourg would face the following night during his four kicks at halftime. It is one thing to practise kicking in front of a crowd of 30 or so people; it is quite another to do it in a raucous stadium and with hundreds of thousands of people watching on national television.

To have to wait to do the final kick because of a commercial timeout after narrowly missing the first three kicks from 20, 30 and 40 yards would be enough to mess with anybody's confidence. But with $1 million on the line? To borrow Chuck Swirsky's line, "Are you kidding me?"

Diesbourg calmly took his three steps back and two steps to the left, then approached the ball and kicked.

And it went straight and true through the uprights.

This was the ultimate promotion wrapped around a Canadian Football League game. It was cooked up by Wendy's, and the publicity it has generated truly is amazing. The money paid for the insurance premium to underwrite the bonus -- likely around $50,000 -- will pale in comparison to the publicity and brand placement.

CANADIAN DREAM

Brian Diesbourg will become to Wendy's what Jared Fogelman is to Subway. He is the Canadian dream, and if he has to wait 40 years to collect his $1 million in increments of $25,000 a year -- that's kind of cheesy -- it's still money in the bank.

But it says here none of this would have happened without Prefontaine, who wants to become a full-time coach when his playing career is over. Prefontaine came to the CFL in 1998 as a top-notch punter who simply couldn't get a chance in the NFL. He showed his prowess immediately with the Argos, but it wasn't until 2002 that he became a full-time place-kicker.

He hadn't done it since high school, and went through several failed tries with the Argos. He persevered with only minimal coaching because kickers rarely are afforded that luxury in the CFL due to limited budgets. Prefontaine now is the best punter/place-kicker in the CFL.

But his work with Diesbourg proves he can coach, too. Granted he had the right student -- this promotion would have gone over flatter than a Wendy's burger had the person whose name was drawn from among 200,000 contest entrants been a more unathletic individual -- but coaching clearly helped.

Here's hoping Wendy's puts together a promotion with Prefontaine and Diesbourg. It likely couldn't happen to two nicer guys. 


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