Cameron's the 'Obi-Wan Kenobi of punting'

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:29 AM ET

A punter?

What in the name of Bernie Ruoff are members of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame selection committee smoking?

Ignoring about 100 years of tradition, on either side of the border, the Hall’s deep thinkers have welcomed a punter into the club, the equivalent of a playground team choosing the skinny kid with the glasses first.

Only in this case, it’s the guy with drywall dust on his jeans and a hammer drill in his hands heading to the hallowed Hall in Hamilton.

Everybody knows punters aren’t real football players. They’re just geeks in helmets.

Yet, eight years after he retired and five years after he was first eligible, Bob Cameron, a man who booted the ball into a cold wind as well as he renovates old Winnipeg houses, is getting busted.

And it’s going to cost him 500 bucks.

You see, Cameron once made a bet with his old sidekick, Troy Westwood, that the only way he’d ever see the inside of the Hall of Fame is if he bought a ticket.

Westwood, on the other hand, believed Cameron had a shot at being the first punter inducted.

“I remember him adamantly saying there’s no chance in all Hades of that happening,” Old Lefty said Tuesday.

When it did, and Cameron got a call from CFL commissioner Mark Cohon two weeks ago, he just had to let his old buddy know.

“He was the first guy I phoned,” Cameron said. “I said, ‘Troy, you made some money today.’ And he couldn’t get it. Finally he figured it out.”

When it comes to Cameron, Westwood figured it out long ago.

No. 6 was simply the best. Not because he had the strongest leg and could boom them 60 yards on a regular basis, like Jon Ryan did.

But because he could stare into the teeth of a November breeze and manage to get 40 yards out of the block of ice that doubled as a ball, or get off a spiral across one of those swirling gales we’re famous for in September.

It was the product of hundreds of hours of practice, often all alone, by the Milt Stegall of punting, as Old Lefty describes him.

“Someone who’s completely dedicated to their craft,” Westwood said. “Punting is an art form. And Bob is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of punting.”

The Force was with him, too, as Cameron helped the Bombers end a 22-year Grey Cup drought in 1984, sending Winnipeg fans into delirium.

Four years later, he was named the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Canadian (a punter?), averaging 47.3 yards on a dozen kicks, with two singles, in a 22-21 win over B.C.

If that wasn’t enough, he completed the Grey Cup hat trick in ’90.

“Those moments, they’re one heck of a lot of fun,” Cameron said. “You’d like them to go on forever — and I just about did.”

No kidding. The guy played an unbelievable 23 years — until he was 48 stinking years old. The kicker who was cut at least eight times at the start of his career was suddenly untouchable.

“Once you win Grey Cups, everyone is sprinkled with that Grey Cup dust,” Cameron said. “For some reason they think you’re a winner.”

That’s the thing about Cameron: the guy was always as down-to-earth as his second job, never taking anything for granted and never giving himself much credit.

Even now, he seems to barely believe he’s going into the Hall.

“I honestly, honestly never believed it,” he said. “There’s no punter in any football hall of fame, anywhere.”

There is, now. Soon there’ll be a steel bust to prove it.

There’s also a debt to pay.

“Somehow I gotta come up with the 500 bucks for him,” Cameron said. “Or make some other bet.”

A punter?

All bets are off, now.


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