Cowboys sign area kicker

STEVE COAD -- Free Press Sports Reporter

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

Shaun Suisham hopes he can make the Dallas Cowboys as happy as they've made him.

The NFL team had no sooner booted kicker Jose Cortez yesterday, a day after he missed a 29-yard field goal in a 13-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, than they turned to Suisham, a 23-year-old Wallaceburg native who starred for four seasons at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where his 45 career field goals tied a school record.

The Cowboys, 4-3 this season, signed Suisham to "the standard rookie contract" -- $230,000 this season and $310,000 in the second year -- and placed him on their active roster.

"I've got a big smile on my face, I can't stop smiling," Suisham said through a laugh yesterday when reached at the team's training facility in Irving, Texas. "I've been living on a roller-coaster; right now it's at the top."

Suisham's roller-coaster reference included being signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in April, cut by the Steelers in September, then signing with the Cowboys only to be released from their practice roster Oct. 11.

But he hung on in the Dallas area, waiting and hoping for a callback.

"I stayed around. I just kept working on my game, kept plugging away. That's all you can do, that and hope they'll get back to you. Today, they got back to me," said Suisham, who made legendary field goals of 57 and 58 yards during his high school days with the Wallaceburg Tartans.

Despite his return to the Cowboys, who are home to the 2-4 Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, and his placement on the active roster, Suisham, a six-foot, 199-pounder, isn't taking anything for granted.

"I feel like I'm climbing the ladder but I'd be foolish to get ahead of myself -- I haven't done anything yet. But this is great opportunity and I couldn't be happier."

Before being released by the Cowboys, Cortez was good on 12 of 16 field goal attempts -- but only three of six from beyond 40 yards. In a 16-13 win over the New York Giants on Oct. 15, Cortez won the game on a 45-yard field goal in overtime.

Still, Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells wasn't happy with Cortez. "Just been too many erratic things," said Parcells, adding Cortez was "terrible" during pregame warmups Sunday.

Last season, Suisham, a second-team Mid-America Conference all-star, hit 14 of 20 field-goal tries and all 69 PAT attempts for 111 points, second on the Falcons, who were 9-3 overall. Suisham was a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza award, which goes each year to the top kicker in the NCAA.


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