Career on solid footing

PATRICK MALONEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

Just as he did last summer, Shaun Suisham is returning to his hometown in a few weeks to help groom Wallaceburg's next crop of football stars.

The 27-year-old kicker will be running his second annual football camp for 200 kids on the high school field where he mastered the game, and the free event will be much the same as the 2007 edition.

But the hometown hero himself is considerably different.

A year ago, Suisham was an itinerant NFL kicker who had bounced from team to team with the possibility he could end up as another good kicker who might not be good enough.

When he comes back home June 21, however, he will have a contract extension with the Washington Redskins in his back pocket and, perhaps more significantly, a breakthrough NFL season on which to keep building a career.

"I was able to get a full season in with one team," Suisham wrote in an e-mail from his Washington-area home. "That was a goal of mine, along with a solid field goal percentage."

A "solid" percentage might be a tad humble.

Though using statistics to measure performance can be like a kicker lining up a 60-yarder in a Buffalo blizzard -- that is, unreliable -- by just about any count Suisham had a strong year.

He tied for fifth in the league in field goals with 29, on 35 attempts, for 83-per-cent efficiency. That also included a dramatic overtime winner against the New York Jets in early November.

But the year wasn't without hardships, even heartache.

Teammate Sean Taylor died after being shot in November during a botched robbery in his Florida home, a tragedy that stunned the Redskins and the NFL.

Suisham declined comment at the time, but he's now open to reflecting on Taylor and the remarkable winning streak Washington ground out following the tragedy.

"Sean was a great person that I really thought a lot of," Suisham said. "He is missed on a daily basis at Redskins Park and around the country. We fell short of the Super Bowl, but I feel we played as a team and honoured our friend."

Inspired by their teammate, the Redskins went on a strong run to secure a playoff berth. The playoff loss to Seattle was tough for all Redskins fans -- but Suisham supporters in particular.

He missed a 30-yard attempt that gave the beleaguered Seahawks enough momentum to take back control of the game.

But he's shaken off the postseason trouble and, displaying the kind of mettle needed to be an NFL kicker, said it didn't take long to do so.

"All kicks are the same to me. . . . I feel I've done a good job maturing in the last couple of years in that aspect," he said. "A game-winner means no more or less than a missed chip shot. My focus is on preparing in the best possible way for every situation. Come game time, I trust in my preparation and enjoy the moment."

Suisham, who was an exclusive-rights Washington free agent after the season, was reportedly signed to a one-year extension. Though it's unclear what he'll be paid, an unofficial fan site estimates his base salary at US$435,000.

The potential is gone, having given way to bona fide credentials. Last season may not have been perfect, but it was strong enough to give the man teammates called Shazam another year to bask in the spotlight.

A little of that refracted glare will shine on his home town next month, when Suisham holds his Kicking It for Kids camp at Wallaceburg District secondary school.

The free day-long training session has room for 200 kids between ages nine and 14, he said. For more information or to apply for a spot, go to www.kickingit4kids.com.

SUISHAM SAYS

1) My all-time favourite movie is . . .

Tombstone

2) In the movie about my life, I will be played by . . .

Matt Damon -- according to my wife

3) My favourite food is . . .

Fresh fruit

4) I drive a . . .

F150 SuperCrew

5) I think the best player in the NFL is . . .

Ethan Albright (the Redskins' long snapper)

6) I could retire happy if . . .

Our family was healthy and I didn't have a mortgage.


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