TORONTO - Noel Prefontaine is feeling like a kid again.
The Argonauts place kicker and punter hit a last minute, game-winning field goal last weekend for the Toronto Argonauts.
But it was a couple of plays earlier in the game that raised eyebrows.
Twice he hustled downfield; once preventing Larry Taylor from heading for glory with an open-field tackle, second helping to knock Taylor down again on another play.
Now Prefontaine was never just a kicker. He was a football player who happened to kick.
But the past few years he hadn’t been getting involved in the rough stuff with any regularity.
“Ultimately I’m getting sick and tired of listening to coaches and people tell me I’m too old to play this game,” said Prefontaine, who will turn 38 this year. “That was just a message to them. Age is just a number. I’m still capable of being a football player. I’m going to make plays any chance I get.”
Prefontaine, traded back to Toronto late last season from Edmonton, admits he hadn’t been playing with the same rambunctious style — not since suffering several concussions in 2007 with the Argos.
The first knock on the head came in the season opener against B.C. on a blocked punt. Then he banged his head again making a tackle against Saskatchewan in November.
“I hurt my head making a couple of tackles and just had to be careful for a while,” he said. “I had a stretch when I had concussion issues but I’m feeling better now. That coupled with all the shots I keep getting about being old, I felt I had to prove myself all over again.
“It’s always been part of my game. I don’t take any less pride in it now than I did when I was 28.”
Prefontaine had some experience as a quarterback and played some safety at El Camino High School in San Diego. What he missed most about concentrating solely on kicking in college, said Prefontaine, was the contact. Argos’ head coach Jim Barker isn’t about to put any similar restraining orders on his kicker, either.
“That’s what he does. It’s the style he plays and you can’t ask a guy to change that. We have Grant Shaw (Prefontaine’s under-study) if something happens to Pre ... I’d never tell him to slow up. That’s when guys get hurt,” said Barker.
“He’s a football player. He was a quarterback in high school in southern California. He’s not your typical kicker. Grant has learned a lot from Pre and he’s a lot like him. They’re football players who kick.”
During the Argos’ Grey Cup season in 2004 the team was known for its great special teams unit and part of that success was due to Prefontaine’s ability to close a coverage gap.
“I’m going to continue to play that way,” he said. “It’s really the only way I know to get enjoyment out of the game. I’ve always loved the contact: more than kicking field goals. If it cuts my career short well so be it.”