August 2, 2012
Argonauts kicker looking to score a full-time job
By BILL LANKOFF, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Swayze Waters knows his days with the Toronto Argonauts might be numbered.
He could kick the ball from here until tomorrow and, like Justin Medlock, it might not be good enough.
Waters kicked a couple of 50-yard field goals to give the Argonauts a win over Montreal and his 45-yard punting average is better than that of injured incumbent Noel Prefontaine.
But, none of it may be enough to keep him on the roster long-term.
That is because Waters, like Medlock, has the distinction of being an American playing at a position traditionally held by a non-import.
"This is my sixth team in four years and it's really tough to break in. Kickers can play a long time and there aren't a lot of openings," said Waters Tuesday.
He has spent time in the NFL with Oakland, Pittsburgh and Detroit.
"The Jets signed me for four days and then released me when they got Josh Brown. I never even get up there (to training camp). So, yeah, I've learned not to get too high, or too low."
He thought he might've got his break when he performed well at the Eskimos camp but they went with Grant Shaw. A Canadian. Shaw has made 12 of 14 kicks, missing from 49 and 31 yards but still good enough for third in the league. So, it's hard to argue.
Waters went back home to Mississippi. Back to working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He has a degree in business marketing from the University of Alabama Birmingham.
"If it doesn't work out, I'll probably go back to ministry work with Christian athletes. That's what my real passion along with football. It's not a good get-rich quick thing -- but its fulfilling."
Not that you are likely to see him Tebowing after a successful kick. But he may need a prayer to stick in this league.
None of the other CFL teams currently employ an American kicker. Medlock signed with Carolina in the off-season and Damon Duval isn't in the CFL anymore.
"Everywhere I've gone I've kicked pretty well, so the first time I got cut (in Detroit) I took it really hard. It's not like college where when you lose your job you are still on the team as a backup.
"In Edmonton, I was kicking great but when I get cut because of the ratio thing (that) was a new reason for me."
Such is life as a kicker.
An undrafted free agent out of the UAB, where he was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, he figures there have been "about 20 workouts" with various pro teams.
"I get, 'Hey, you were really good but we're going with whomever because he's got some experience'. Everyone wants experience, but you can't get experience."
He is small, even by kicker standards. But he has a big leg, once hitting a 70-yard field goal in practice. His longest in a game is 54 yards.
"In my first few years in college I was known for a big leg. So I got an opportunity because of that. But in the last year I've changed some fundamentals. It has cut down on some of my distance because I'm focussing more on accuracy because at this level it doesn't matter how big your leg is if you don't get it through the uprights.
"But I'm blessed to have a strong enough leg to not have to try to kill a ball to get it to go from 55 ... and that's about as long as a coach is going to want to kick anyway."
In two games with Toronto he has averaged 44.6 yards on 17 punts, with his longest going 54 yards. His 40.1 net yards ranks first in the CFL.
He has hit on four of six field goals. The only misses were from 46 yards -- hardly chip shots.
All of which guarantees ... nothing.
Prefontaine left yesterday for the U.S. where he will undergo surgery to repair a four-centimetre labrum tear in his left hip. He has every intention, even at age 38, of attempting a comeback.
That leaves Swayze in his familiar role as football nomad. Here today.
Gone, who knows when.
"It's tough," admits the 25-year-old, "when you bounce around. In high school and college you develop this bond with team-mates. It helps to know everyone on the team has your back. You're not worried that with each kick if you miss it that you are going to get fired.
"You feel more part of a team when you can stay somewhere for a while. You start to feel you are part of something bigger.
"As a pro athlete you are always having to prove yourself, and prove that you can perform. But when you are always the new guy -- it's kind of a difficult mentally.
"It's like every day you always have to prove you belong."
And, even when you do, sometimes all it buys is a ticket home.