Serna kicking adversity

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Alexis Serna faces the tough task of trying to unseat Troy Westwood as Winnipeg Blue Bombers placekicker and/or punter.

Westwood's had the placekicking gig for the last 17 years, so it's not going be easy. Serna's first crack at displacing Westwood will come tomorrow night in Hamilton when the Bombers visit the Tiger-Cats in the pre-season opener for both squads.

Only Westwood and Serna are making the trip, and they will alternate each time a punt and or field goal attempt presents itself.

Serna isn't nervous.

He's been through worse.

Take Sept. 4, 2004, for instance. That's the night a few of Serna's Oregon State teammates had to be restrained from physically harming him after a game.

It's a night Serna will never be allowed to forget as long as he's a football player.

It's also a night Serna refuses to forget, because he believes it helped turn him into the kicker he is today.

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The Beavers, led by former Bomber coach Mike Riley, had a tough test in their 2004 opener: a road game against the LSU Tigers, who just so happened to be the defending BCS champs.

The kicker they took to Louisiana that weekend was Serna, a redshirt freshman and former soccer player from Fontana, Calif., who passed on attending junior college and walked on to the Oregon State roster.

The Beavers played the Tigers tough that night in Death Valley, and they almost won what some say would have been the biggest victory in Oregon State football history.

They would have won were it not for Serna. LSU prevailed 22-21 in overtime. Serna missed three extra point attempts.

Not field goal attempts.

Extra point attempts.

That explains why a few of his teammates wanted to kill him.

"I don't blame them," Serna said yesterday. "In a situation like that -- huge game, national TV, against the defending national champions -- I don't blame them at all.

"I definitely didn't do my part. They did their parts of the game, and I didn't finish mine."

That night, anyway. Serna's kicking career, which probably should have ended that night when he was sobbing on that locker-room floor in Louisiana, became the kind of comeback story that makes sports great.

Serna proceeded to make 16 of 19 field goal tries over the remainder of the 2004 season. Riley gave him a scholarship, and Serna made The Sporting News' All-Freshman Team.

In 2005 Serna came all the way back, capturing the Lou Groza Award as the top college kicker in the U.S.

He believes the LSU incident is the reason why he won that award and the reason why he will never lack confidence on a football field.

"I look back on that every other day and think about it," he said. "Just knowing that that happened, I can bounce back and I can fight through anything. And that's a big thing, being mentally tough.

"I feel I'm one of the mentally toughest kickers out there. I think I'm one of the best. I can kick in any weather, in any condition, and if I have an off day you know I'm going to come back and be consistent the next day."

Despite being one of the top kickers in Pac-10 history, Serna was passed over in April's NFL draft, likely because he's only 5-foot-6. He was on B.C.'s negotiation list but begged off in order to get a chance in Winnipeg.

Now he's attempting to become the Bombers' placekicker and punter, the latter a job he performed at Oregon State in only his senior season last fall.

But don't count Serna out. He's been going to toe to toe with Westwood in the field-goal department, and his punting has improved each day.

He's a fighter who won't let anything stop him, and we know this simply by looking up his final extra point stats at Oregon State.

He was 144-for-147.


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