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This article was published 30/5/2018 (737 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When you have as long and impressive a resumé as Justin Medlock does in the Canadian Football League, you might also think it would come with a short memory.
But Medlock, one of the league’s top kickers and punters entering his third season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and eighth in the CFL, isn’t about to forget the struggles he went through in 2017. In fact, the 34-year-old from Santa Clara, Calif., used what he called an "off year" last season as motivation over the past few months, and says he’s ready for a career year.
He’s also got the body to prove it.
"I wanted to drop some pounds and get back into the kicking shape I was in before and I worked pretty hard at it," Medlock said Monday, following a rainy Day 11 of training camp at Investors Group Field. "Maybe I wasn’t as disciplined as I should have been last year. I think by the time we got to midseason I was kind of feeling it."
“They gave me another chance and I want to do well for the guys on this team” — Justin Medlock.
Using a different workout routine, including switching his training sessions to the mornings, as well as adjusting what and when he ate, Medlock has dropped 15 pounds since his exit meetings with the Bombers last November. Some of his excess weight he put on last year, he noted, could have been the result of becoming a new dad prior to the season, after he and his wife, Hanna, welcomed their first child, Braxton, last January. But he’s not making any excuses and he loves being a dad.
"He’s wild," said Medlock, noting how active Braxton is at 16 months old. "I just think the biggest thing was feeling motivated this year but also I wanted to improve and I was glad to get another chance."
After two years with the Bombers, Medlock inked a one-year extension in November, the deal coming just weeks after Winnipeg’s loss in the West Division semifinal at home to the Edmonton Eskimos. The move came as somewhat of a surprise, if only because of what Medlock said in his final appearance with reporters following the Edmonton loss.
At the time, he seemed to be thinking of moving on from football, ending what would have been a stellar career.
"They gave me another chance and I want to do well for the guys on this team," said Medlock.
It wasn’t that he didn’t still feel good enough to play, he just wanted to know that the team wanted him back, that the feeling was mutual. So he first spoke to special teams coach Paul Boudreau, who made it clear he wanted Medlock back. He then chatted with head coach Mike O’Shea, who shared a similar message, which also included a conversation about life after football.
"You see the same thing every year," O’Shea said. "He’s very professional, he’s always working on his craft, he’s always holding himself to the highest standard."
It’s not that he didn’t have options, including a potential career selling medical supplies — a lucrative opportunity offered to him by a friend and the chance to settle down with his family. But Medlock turned it down, still believing he had what it took to compete at a high level.
Perhaps most of all, though, Medlock didn’t want to retire from football on a sour note, after a tough 2017 campaign that didn’t look a lot like his first season with the Bombers, when he was name CFL’s most outstanding special teams player in 2016.
In two seasons in Winnipeg, Medlock has connected on 116 of 138 field-goal attempts (84.1 per cent) and is near perfect on converts, hitting 88 of 89. He is also among the best field-goal kickers in CFL history, with his 86.1 per cent career total trailing only the Calgary Stampeders’ Rene Paredes (86.9). Heading into the 2017 season, it was Medlock that paced all kickers, boasting an 87.5 per cent success rate.
Though far from horrible in 2017, a year when Medlock led all kickers in points scored (226) and field goals (56), it just wasn’t the kind of performance he expected from himself. His 80 per cent efficiency rate was last among the eight kickers with at least 34 attempts, though it can be argued those stats don't tell the whole story. No other team uses their kicker like the Bombers do Medlock, trotting him out more often and from farther distances than any other.
"I definitely remember it," he said. "I had to go back and look at some of the good things, too. I had three or four game-winners. I felt like there was a couple situations there where I felt I could have done better but they were great learning tools."
"Punting-wise, I really felt like I had some really good punts," added Medlock, who finished third in net-yardage. "I got a couple other kicks this year that I’m not going to break out in the preseason but start working on it more next week and I think I’m going to catch some people off guard with that."
To be sure he remainded focused over the offseason, Medlock said he was provided with constant motivation by two other kickers — Bobby Puyol, who kicked for UConn and Greg Joseph, who played at Florida Atlantic and is currently with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins — as the three worked out together in his garage gym at his home in in Jupiter, Fla.
"They’re animals and we just kind of push each other. We’re working out together, pushing me to get better and hopefully it works. I got to do a good job of staying in shape during the season but I’ve done all the work, all I need to do now is execute out there," he said. "I’m expecting a really good year."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
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Updated on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 7:10 PM CDT: Adds pullquote