Time can't catch Prefontaine
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Argos kicker Noel Prefontaine plans to stick around in the CFL for a few years yet. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency file photo)
TORONTO - Father Time is knocking at the door, but Noel Prefontaine isn’t quite ready to ask what he wants.
“I plan on playing at least another four (seasons) and then see what happens,” the 37-year-old Argonauts punter/kicker said on Thursday.
“But you start getting older and you don’t know what your body is going to do from morning to morning.”
Prefontaine, about to embark on his 14th season in the Canadian Football League, is in a bit of a strange place at training camp. He knows Grant Shaw will one day take over the punting and kicking duties with the Argos. And Prefontaine is helping inch Shaw along that path, as he passes along the knowledge he has gained since the Argos selected him in the 1998 supplemental draft.
“It can be somewhat discouraging,” Prefontaine said. “The good thing for me is Grant is a good kid and he has good character, and I am willing to work with guys like that.
“I used to relish the fact I was the only guy in camp. You get comfortable in your job.”
Shaw likely will handle kickoffs in 2011, his second in the CFL. Though the 26-year-old started to gain a reputation as a rookie as having one of the strongest legs in the league, he remains rough around the edges.
Prefontaine has the veteran savvy. That can only come with experience, and for now, Prefontaine buys time as Shaw learns.
The Argos re-acquired Prefontaine last season from the Edmonton Eskimos, officially correcting one of the dumber moves by Toronto management in recent memory. On the eve of camp in 2008, Prefontaine was sent west so Mike Vanderjagt could, with the blessing of the Argos, resurrect a career that was best left dormant. A year later, Vanderjagt was done.
“Pre is the best I have seen at placing the ball,” Argos head coach and general manager Jim Barker said. “While a guy can kick the ball 10 yards farther, if he can’t put it where you need it to go, it does not do you any good.
“Grant is learning the importance of that, and Pre can help him with that. Grant is our longterm answer. Pre is our guy now, and he is as good as anybody in the league.”
A couple of days ago, Barker surmised that Prefontaine might have only a year or two left. On Thursday, to an extent, he amended that.
“To say Pre only has one year or two years, who knows?” Barker said. “But we have to be prepared for when that time happens. What if he can’t play any more or gets injured?”
Prefontaine, who signed an extension with the Argos in January, has had the same thoughts. He arrived for the start of camp at 205 pounds, which is about the same his weight was at the end of the 2010 season. Now, though, some of those pounds have been redistributed on his six-foot frame.
“What I do in the off-season, in the gym, is taking advantage of the opportunity I have here,” Prefontaine said. “Hopefully your body holds up. Regardless of how much training you are doing, that stuff helps, but who is to say when the body says it does not want to do this anymore? You have to be a little lucky in that regard.”
For Prefontaine, everything boils down to one hard fact.
“For me to play in the next four or five years, or however long I want to, I have to be productive,” Prefontaine said. “It does not matter whether you are 40 and not productive, or 23 and not productive — you are going to have a tough time finding a job.”