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August 27, 2018

Sweet Deal

Sweet isn’t sour.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

“I am,’’ says Don Sweet, “absolutely tickled for him.

“Ecstatic.

“Could not be happier.

“I love it when the guys I work with break records or put streaks together or when they pass people.

“Even when they pass me.

“That means I’ve been able to give back. That’s wonderful.”

With 10 more points – likely to be reached either Labour Day Monday vs. those dastardly Edmonton Eskimos or in the rematch due north five days later – Stampeders’ marksman Rene Paredes, a Sweet protege, will reach 1,343 and slot up into 16th place in the CFL record books.

More significantly, he’ll also vault over the man who’s helped shape his career, sharpen his skills, deepen his resolve, crystalize his self-belief.

“It is a bit weird,’’ concedes Parades. “The kicking game is a lot different from back then. Different style. But he was one of the best kickers back in the day. He has a lot of knowledge. We get along well. I trust him.

“It’s been good for me.”

Over a 14-season CFL career, Sweet was named Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian on three occasions.

The 70-year-old Sweet, who hung up his kicking cleats in 1986, currently works with a handful of CFL and collegiate kickers at his home base in Langley, B.C. (soon to be Kamloops).

Among them, Parades and his Stampeder punting sidekick Rob Maver.

The two men began collaborating following the 2011 Stampeder season.

“When Rene came to me he had a good leg and a pretty good swing,’’ recalls Sweet. “And he said: ‘I’ve done okay but I know I’ve got to be better so I’m coming to you for help.’ I told him: ‘Then you’ve got to buy in to everything I’m going to teach you. Let’s pretend you’ve got right-handed penmanship. You write with your right hand. Now I want you take that pen and put it in your left hand, Rene. How long is it going to take you to feel comfortable writing with your left hand?

“That’s how long it’s going to take me to break you of some of the habits I see that probably need correcting.

“I’m not a Band-Aid. I’m not going to fix you right away. You’re not going to come to me and two days later walk away the best kicker in Canada.’”

Seven years on, Paredes partisans can legitimately make that claim.

Under Sweet’s, currently ranks at the most accurate field-goal kicker in league history, clocking in at an 87.2% efficiency.

The two have a ritual of speaking before every Stampeder game.

“What I try and do,’’ says Sweet, “is find different ways to find out the fear of failure. How do you do it mentally and physically. So if someone’s out there kicking a field-goal or making a punt, it’s like: Geez, if I miss what’s the press going to say? What do I say to my mom or my dad? What’s my girlfriend going to say? What about my teammates?

“You have to drive out those negative thoughts. The other thing is I want them: Okay, if I do have a bad kick, why is my next one going to be one of my best ever?

“I want them looking forward to that next kick because Don has taught me it’s going to be good because I’m going back to basics.”

Working together so closely has forged that deep bond.

“He’s such a soft-spoken person,” enthuses Sweet. “I really, really like him.

“We have a good time. It’s almost like the prodigal son coming home when he comes out this way. He looks forward to seeing me and my wife and hanging out.

“I work with about six or seven guys in the CFL, three or four guys in colleges. I don’t want any more. If I did, then I couldn’t have those types of relationships. Then I’m more of a number-cruncher.

“I want these guys to be able to phone me and talk to me.

“So he’s going to pass me? That’s fine.

“Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”