Bombers reward stellar Serna

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

While several of his teammates were happy, Alexis Serna wasn't exactly jumping for joy when Mike Kelly got fired last month.

The 24-year-old placekicker from Fontana, Calif., enjoyed a professional football renaissance under the bombastic Bomber head coach in 2009.

"I loved coach Kelly," Serna said yesterday from Oregon. "He was a great coach to me. From my perspective -- I can't talk for anybody else -- I loved him. He was a great coach to me, and I love the way he worked with me."

Kelly treated Serna with kid gloves last season, helping the second-year CFLer bounce back from a tough rookie campaign under Doug Berry. Serna set a franchise record in 2009 by making 81.6% of his field goals, and the club rewarded him yesterday with a new contract for two years and an option in 2012.

Serna was eligible to become a free agent next month, but decided to take the stable route since he's getting married next Saturday to fiancee Julie Garcia.

"The NFL was kind of tempting because all the kickers were doing so bad and they were having a lot of turnover," he said. "But going into my first year of marriage, I kind of want a little bit more stability and security."

Though the Bombers haven't found Kelly's successor nor hired a permanent vice-president of football operations, Serna wasn't tempted to wait and see which direction the club is going to go.

"No, not at all," he said. "I have full confidence in what they're going to do up there, and I have full confidence in what I can do.

"So no matter what coach they're going to bring in I'm going to perform my best, and I'm pretty sure the coach will be happy with the way I perform."

Serna's rookie struggles under Berry have been well-documented, and last year under Kelly was like a breath of fresh air for the former Oregon State Beaver and 2005 winner of the Lou Groza award as the NCAA's top placekicker.

'Timeout!'

Kelly's tone towards Serna was established in the days following the season-opener in Edmonton. Serna missed the game-tying, 47-yard field goal on the last play of the contest after the Eskimos called a timeout to ice him. Every time Kelly saw Serna in the days following the game, he yelled, "Timeout!"

It was all done in a playful manner, and Serna was a big fan of Kelly's approach.

"I respected him a lot, and the reason being is he treated me like a normal person," he said. "He'd say, 'Hey, how's it going?' or he would crack jokes. It was a lot of fun. It was a fun work environment for me.

"I thought I performed well because I was happy with the environment I was in."

Serna was good on 40 of 49 attempts last season, including 2-for-2 from 50 yards or longer. His average field goal distance was tops in the CFL, which was impressive considering he went through three holders: Stefan LeFors, Mike Renaud and Aaron Hargreaves.

"I honestly can say I don't think a lot of the kickers out there could have done what I did, to go through three holders like that and still perform the way I did," Serna said.

LATE HITS: Serna's signing leaves the Bombers with six potential free agents: Hargreaves, Jovon Johnson, Ryan Donnelly, James Johnson, Pat MacDonald and Steven Holness. The club isn't going to offer a contract to James Johnson ... Saskatchewan has decided to take Winnipeg's first-round draft pick this year, the option of which was given to them in the Dan Goodspeed trade. Winnipeg will get Saskatchewan's pick, sixth overall ... The Bomber board announced yesterday that it has hired Ernest Warkentin, a senior executive search consultant and president of Winnipeg based Ernst David International Inc., to assist in helping find candidates for their vacant president, vice-president of football operations and head coach positions.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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