Focused on making the kick
Preseason tilt a showcase for Big Blue’s aspiring punters and placekickers
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They’re friends and have been roommates since the start of camp, but this weekend in Edmonton, punters Jamieson Sheahan and Karl Schmitz will be in a battle against each other to keep their professional football dreams alive.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers take on the Elks at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday afternoon in preseason action. Head coach Mike O’Shea confirmed Thursday the team will use the exhibition to evaluate their two Global punters.
To give the new guys a chance to show what they can do, Canadian Marc Liegghio, who has handled punting duties the past two seasons, will not play.
“We’re all grown men. We’re all adults and understand that this is a job interview,” said Sheahan, an Australian out of the University of California.
“All we can worry about is our individual performance. There’s no hard feelings between any of the punters. Karl and I room together and get along really well. We’ve already spoken about the fact that whatever happens, there’s no hard feelings and we’ll be friends at the end of it. We both want the best for each other, so it is a strange situation, but it’s one we’ve both been in before.”
Sheahan, the Bombers chose eighth overall in the 2023 CFL Global Draft, closed out his college career in November with a game against in-state rival UCLA.
As for Schmitz, Saturday’s contest will be his first game action in eight years. The last time the 36-year-old from Bermuda suited up was back in 2015 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave him a preseason look. The Bombers selected Schmitz in the second round of this year’s Global Draft with the No. 17 pick.
“You know what, I’ve spent zero time thinking about the actual competition because I think we’re both here for a reason and both have a job to do. The reasons they like me are probably not the same reasons why they like Jammer,” said Schmitz, who made a full-time commitment in 2021 to give pro football one more shot.
“As long as I just punt like I can and I’m in my own element, I think everything else will play out as it will. My strengths aren’t his and vice versa, so it really just depends on what they like.”
O’Shea said Thursday regardless what happens in Edmonton, there’s still a lot of evaluating to be done to determine who will be the starting punter in Week 1 when the Bombers host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on June 9.
A strong showing will definitely make things interesting, though. You can argue Liegghio’s barely holding on as he finished the 2022 season in eighth place in punting with a 46.9 yard average.
Sheahan was asked what it’d mean to him to win the gig. He was on the pre-season watch list for the Ray Guy Award — awarded to the nation’s top punter — heading into his final year at Cal.
“It’d be a real honour. Playing professional football anywhere is an incredible achievement. There’s only 50 or 60 punters across the world that get to do this as a profession and get paid,” said the 26-year-old.
“I’d be really proud of myself. You dream about playing professional ball and it’s going to be hopefully a great feeling when that comes to fruition in the next couple of weeks. Right now, it’s just worrying about how Saturday comes out.”
Liegghio hasn’t participated in field goal drills the past few days which indicates the kicking job is a two-horse race between Sergio Castillo and Chandler Staton. The veteran Castillo, who was released by the Elks at the beginning of the month and quickly scooped up by the Bombers, will also sit Saturday. Staton, who hit 20-of-21 field goal attempts in his senior year at Appalachian State in 2021, will handle kicking duties.
Staton’s odds of making the club took a massive hit when Castillo arrived in town, but the 26-year-old rookie doesn’t think about it that way.
Before his lone season in Edmonton, Castillo went five-for-five in Winnipeg’s 33-25 overtime victory over Hamilton in the 2021 Grey Cup.
“It’s been nice, honestly. When it comes to competition, I think most people, especially in our job, do better when there’s competition out there,” said Staton.
“Between him and Legs, it’s been great, honestly, and you get to learn a whole lot more. I think it’s been a really good experience, definitely not negative in any way.
Even with the deck stacked against him, the Gainesville, Ga., product feels encouraged.
“Throughout my entire career, even in college, I’ve been an underdog and I think that’s been well stated and known. I’m kind of comfortable in that position,” said Staton.”So when it comes to kicking, if you do your job, you’ll be fine… All I’m focused on right now is just making the next kick.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...