He likes it rough

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:31 AM ET

He’s a football player by definition who happens to make a living by punting the pigskin.

And each time Jamie Boreham makes a tackle, he’s helping erase a stereotype that has festered in football since the sport’s beginning.

“It’s a 12-man unit,’’ Boreham began in describing the cover team on special teams.

“You can’t be one man short because we have some kicker walking around out there.”

If you get the sense that Boreham isn’t your average kicker, you’re right because he’s not.

He welcomes contact, doesn’t shy away from sacrificing his body if a return guy on punts or kickoffs happens to be in Boreham’s cross hairs.

For most of his career in the CFL, a journey that has taken him to places such as Hamilton, Saskatchewan and now Toronto, Boreham has tried to emulate his game after ex-Argos punter/kicker Noel Prefontaine, the measuring stick when it comes to fielding the 12th man on cover units.

“Pre’s my boy,’’ Boreham added. “I have the utmost respect for Pre.

“He’s the one who started to bring that added element, he’s the first guy who showed that a cover team is made up of 12 men.”

When the Argos visited Edmonton two weeks ago, Boreham took the time to visit with Prefontaine.

Not many punters are among the first to venture down field looking to make a tackle, which make Boreham and Prefontaine unique in their mentality.

During his days in Canadian university football, Boreham played free safety, excelled in the secondary, but his primary path to the pro game was forged by his booming leg.

The safety in Boreham never left, but he was left in limbo following a neck injury he sustained late last season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders that knocked him out of the team’s playoff run.

When he was acquired by the Argos in the off-season, Boreham had to bide his time until a herniated disc, the byproduct of making a tackle on special teams, healed and he was deemed medically fit to play.

Tests were done to measure the strength in his neck, nerves got tweaked to ensure they were acting properly, specialists were consulted and then came an MRI, the final verification that all was well.

“I remember what the specialist told me,’’ Boreham continued.

“He basically told me to go out there and have some fun.”

He tried, but Boreham, with the clarity of hindsight, now admits that something was amiss when he dressed for the first time as an Argo.

“That first game, there was so much talk about my neck, about this, about that, that maybe I over-thought everything too much,’’ Boreham confided.

“I was playing the kicker role, but I didn’t like it because I wasn’t helping our team.”

In Boreham’s world, helping a team is not confined to getting a punt off without it getting blocked.

In Boreham’s world, he has to be mentally prepared to make a tackle, which clearly he wasn’t when the thought of huddling with special teams coach Mike O’Shea got broached.

“I told him that I was going to do what I do,’’ Boreham said.

“He said: ‘I hope you do what you do because you add something to the game.’”

Boreham can’t remember the precise moment, but he made a tackle.

Then came a battery of tests Boreham needed to undergo to make sure he was fine.

“Basically, I kept asking myself how I felt the next day, the day after and everything felt good,’’ he added.

‘I was fine’

“It wasn’t a real hard collision, but it was confirmation that I was okay. Everything was reaffirmed that I was fine.”

Last week’s visit by Montreal would provide the final litmus test for Boreham, the ultimate validation that his recovery from the neck injury was complete.

“There were bigger collisions and I didn’t feel any ill effects,’’ he said. “It just built so much more confidence in me.”

Not only did Boreham’s net punting give the Als a longer playing field to operate, but he also accounted for two tackles.

“There’s no better way to make friends that to go out there and hit someone, which is always good,’’ Boreham added.

Boreham, 32, has a soccer background, which allows him to punt the ball with either his right or left foot.

That versatility keeps opposing teams guessing when the Argonauts want to use Boreham in directional punting involving a rugby-style method to pin a foe.

When all else fails, he’s now mentally and physically equipped to make a tackle.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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