Giancola ready for return

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:34 AM ET

Every Monday, a Sun staffer gets to know a local sports personality a little better. Jim Bender recently kicked around several subjects with veteran kicker Dan Giancola after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers decided to give the 39-year-old a second shot after five years away from the game, signing him to a CFL pact a couple of weeks ago.

The Sun: Are you still excited about signing with the Bombers?

Giancola: Oh my God, it's beyond excitement for me. It took me 10 years and 131 tryouts the first time. I thought getting back into the league won't be as hard and five years later, here I am. I'm damn excited. It's a dream-come-true all over again.

TS: Did you start to wonder if you would ever get this second shot?

DG: Yeah. Ever since (winning the 2004 Grey) Cup (with Toronto), I tried. But it was not because of my ability to kick the ball but because things that were happening in my private life. My wife (Christina) recovered from colon cancer; both of my in-laws recovered from colon cancer; my dad got Parkinson's; and my mother had a seizure.

Every time I took a step forward, it was a mile back. It was hard but I was brought up to always think of family first ... My wife also had a fibroid the size of a baby's head removed. But thank God that she's doing great and my mother's doing great.

I told my wife I was going to do this and she said, 'Oh boy.' Then, she said, 'I'll back you.' So, I got the green light. And I can't say enough about (Bomber director of player personnel) John Murphy, who believed in me and gave me a chance when nobody else would.

TS: When did the illnesses start?

DG: In 2003, my wife found out she had colon cancer. If it wasn't for my father-in-law, she wouldn't be alive. He had been diagnosed with colon cancer about two months before. My mother-in-law had already had preventative cancer surgery when they removed her entire large intestine. Shortly after my father-in-law was diagnosed, I told my wife she should get checked out and she did. The doctor called her in and said, 'Do you want the good news or the bad news?' He said, 'The bad news is you've got cancer. The good news is we caught it in time.'

TS: What were you doing at the time?

DG: Right after my wife was diagnosed, Toronto called saying they needed a kicker. You want to talk about stress. My wife is in the hospital and I'm driving into to Toronto (from Niagara Falls) for practice, then driving back to pick up my daughter, Skylar, and go back to the hospital.

TS: What were you doing lately?

DG: I was working in the meat department in a grocery store and working as a personal trainer. I have also been doing some motivational speaking and I'm working on a book about my life. This is the whip cream on top of my cake and Winnipeg would be a great end chapter.

TS: How has all of this changed you?

DG: Holy smokes, good question. You take nothing for granted. I normally would be nervous getting ready for training camp right now but I'm not ... It really hasn't changed me that much but it has made me appreciate what I have that much more and I don't want to grow old thinking, 'What if?' I'm coming to Winnipeg and I'm going to have the time of my life. I'm planning to make this team.

TS: And if you don't make it?

DG: I'll be crushed. But I always get up. That's how I got through all the years of people saying no. I went to 131 tryouts and was told, 'No,' 131 times. No part of me wants to give up. If it doesn't happen, I'll just keep going.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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