Several years ago, Grant Shaw was playing junior football in Edmonton and volunteered to give kicking a try when a teammate was struggling.
It was a decision which could, in the next few weeks, result in a job in the Canadian Football League for Shaw.
The 25-year-old was named a Canada West all-star at defensive back for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in 2009. But he also booted 19 field goals on 23 attempts, and his ability to kick the football made him a hot commodity at the CFL Canadian draft in May. The Argos picked him 11th overall, and he probably would have gone to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with the next selection had he not been chosen by Toronto. When Shaw was off the board, Hamilton traded its pick.
“They want me to come in and challenge for the field-goal kicking job and maybe do kickoffs,” Shaw said on Thursday at Huron Park in Mississauga after the Argos practised for a second day in a row in a steady rain.
“They basically said that every job is open for anyone to take, and that’s what you want as a first-year player.”
Veteran non-import Jamie Boreham was acquired from the Saskatchewan Roughriders to punt the football. That leaves Shaw and import Robbie Dehaze as the only kickers in camp.
Last year, head coach Bart Andrus took the unusual step of having two Americans, Justin Medlock and Eddie Johnson, as his kickers. Andrus’ replacement, Jim Barker, would rather follow tradition. That means Shaw, an Edmonton native, could have an edge over Dehaze, a native of Arcadia, Calif., who briefly was with the Atlanta Falcons last year.
“The fact (Shaw) is a Canadian is always a factor and Robbie knows that,” Barker said. “We have to be honest with the players, and we would prefer to be Canadian there, no doubt about that. We’re excited about both of those guys.
“There is always a veteran guy out there if things don’t pan out, but at this point, that is not in my thought process.”
Shaw’s versatility sets him apart. He is taking some reps at linebacker, but when the main camp opens on Sunday, Shaw will stick to kicking.
Dehaze realizes the odds may be piling up, but he is not letting it have an adverse effect. Shaw and Dehaze took turns lining up field goals from 35 yards on Thursday, and both hit all nine attempts.
“I don’t think it is an open road, especially when you have two Canadians in there,” Dehaze said. “Grant is a heck of a kicker. I don’t understand how he can be a defensive back, and just walk right up to the tee and kick. He’s a great athlete.
“I did my research. I knew who was here, knew that Justin Medlock was gone. I’m glad to be here. It’s better than sitting at home training by myself.”
And Shaw is no dummy. He knows that if he and Dehaze perform equally, being Canadian might push him on to the roster. It helps that Dehaze remains in a learning mode when it comes to the Canadian game, while it’s all that Shaw knows.
“For any position, if two guys are (equal), the advantage must go to the Canadian,” Shaw said. “At least that is what I have been told. This is the CFL, so it helps to be Canadian.”
The man who replaces Medlock will have instant pressure. Medlock’s 87% success rate on field goals was second in the CFL, and he parlayed his strong season into a contract with the Washington Redskins.
“It’s unfortunate for Toronto that he is gone,” Shaw said. “They have a void to fill, and I am here to do whatever I can to fill those shoes.”