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July 30, 2019

MAVER, PAREDES KICKIN’ IT TOGETHER FOR 150 GAMES

As first impressions go, hardly long and true and dead centre between the uprights.

“Yeah, I missed my first kick of the tryout,’’ admits Rene Paredes. “A 21-yarder from the right hash. Maybe 20.

“I got lazy, missed it wide, my technique wasn’t good. And, looking back, I’m kinda glad I did miss it because it woke me up, gave me a shock. Like: ‘Whoa! I’ve gotta get serious here.’

“Then I didn’t miss again until the end, from 52 yards.”

That was 2011, nine years ago.

Since then, a CFL record of 31 straight (that ultimately stretched to 39) successful field goals, before the advent of Ottawa Redblacks’ precocious Lewis Ward.

From walk-on nobody to walk-off game star. A climb up to second on the franchise scoring list, at 1,445 points and climbing.

From nailing a 50-yarder on his first pro attempt, versus B.C. back on June 30th, 2011, fast-forwarded to that exquisite, gossamer-soft onside kick that put the Calgary Stampeders in position to snatch an improbable victory from the 2019 edition of the Leos on Week 2 of this season.

Quite the evolution.

CALGARY, AB - JULY 21, 2018: The Calgary Stampeders won 25-8 against the Montreal Alouettes at McMahon Stadium on Saturday night. (Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Stampeders)

On Thursday at TD Stadium in Ottawa, the Venezuelan-born, Quebec-reared, undrafted hoister of pebbled pigskin, twice released at Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ training camps, marks his 149th CFL regular-season game.

Meaning a week from Saturday and the first northern invasion of the year from the Edmonton Eskimos to McMahon Stadium he reaches a touchstone career moment.

What’s so symmetrically pleasing about the timing is that his ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’ pal, punter Rob Maver, logged career skirmish No. 150 last Thursday versus Toronto.

The fact that Paredes only got his opportunity because Maver, then the place-kicker, had torn a quad during training camp only deepens the connection.

“I didn’t even know,’’ confesses Maver of his come-and-gone milestone night. “Had no idea, until the day of. Then I opened up Twitter and there were some mentions. I think I turned to my wife and said: ‘Oh. OK. That’s cool. Let’s go play.’

“When you stop and think about it, that’s a lot of football games. I never envisioned anything like this when I was younger. I was just trying to find a way to get to university. Then, at university it was: ‘Let’s go to a camp and see what happens.’ The goal was never to play 150 games.

“Rene and I, our careers are really the product of one another’s. I’ve been able to play this long because he’s done well, and vice-versa.

“Milestones are something I’m sure I’ll reflect on more after I’m done. Right now, I’m just focused on going to Ottawa and getting W No. 4. I’m sure he’ll tell you the same thing.”

Over the years, in their own ways, the two – whether via coffin-corner punts or dramatic field goals – have plunged more emotional daggers into more hearts than a pair of high-school lotharios.

“A couple years ago, when I reached 100 games, I thought a lot about it,’’ Paredes says. “Crazy what I’ve done in seven, eight years.

“Coming here, I was supposed to stay for a couple games, until Maves got healthy. Luckily it worked out for me. Huff and (Mark) Kilam believed in me and I thank them for that.”

Their common denominator, of course, is special teams overlord Kilam.

“First of all, I want to say it’s been a privilege to work with the guy,” Kilam says of Paredes.

“He’s a pro. He comes to work each and every day. Regardless of everything’s he’s done in his career, no matter how good he was the year before, he comes to every training camp ready to beat out whoever we bring in. There’s no sense of entitlement. None whatsoever.

“Maves had that injury coming into camp, hurt it in the first game and then we had that little kick-off with guys we’d brought in.

“Rene’s an important example of someone taking advantage of an opportunity. So many guys get opportunities and don’t do that, and disappear.”

“He missed that first one in the try-out but it didn’t rattle him. Nothing rattles him. It’s always about the next kick. That’s what makes him special

“Rob’s the one who’s truly had to evolve his game. Because the rules on punts have changed over the course of his career – who can release downfield, if you can punt it straight out of bounds without hitting the turf.

“Things of that nature.

“So as the punt systems were changing, and the schemes and the tactics along with them, he had to make alterations as well to stay relevant.

“He’s done a great job of that.

“The fact that they’ve both played this long, this well for the same team and become such good friends is quite something.”

CALGARY, AB - SEPTEMBER 3, 2018: The Calgary Stampeders won 23-20 against the Edmonton Eskimos at Monday afternoon's Labour Day Classic at McMahon Stadium. (Photo by David Moll/Calgary Stampeders)

Both are two-time Grey Cup champions. Between them, they’ve been named to five CFL All-Star teams. And both, soon, will number 150 regular-season games on their list of accomplishments.

Asked for a best-ever/most memorable kick, Paredes hesitates.

“Oh, man, it’s tough to choose. Game winners are always fun, obviously. But when I broke Paul McCallum’s record, back in the day, was pretty special. I was a young guy then pretty much like Lewis Ward is right now.

“Only 19 yards, but that kick had more pressure than a 52-yard game-winner.”

Pressure is something else Paredes and Maver have in common.

Both joining the 150 Club so close together is only the stars aligning correctly.

“So much has happened, what we’ve been able to accomplish together,’’ muses Maver. “The amount of games, the amount of time, we’ve spent with each other is something we’ll both look back on and appreciate.

“Our story’s been told, of course.

“But the cool thing is that the story’s not over.”