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This article was published 13/8/2009 (4121 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THERE were times last season when you needed a crowbar to pry a smile out of Alexis Serna.

Life for the Blue Bombers place-kicker certainly has a more positive spin these days.

Kicker Alexis Serna, right, and punter Mike Renaud boot for the Blue.

MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Kicker Alexis Serna, right, and punter Mike Renaud boot for the Blue.

Serna, who rarely popped a grin last season, stood smiling and rocking on his heels in a picture of relaxation during an interview following Thursday's practice at Canad Inns Stadium.

"I tried to change my mentality for this year. It's a game and you can't take it too seriously," said Serna, who is 10 of 12 with a long of 54 yards in the field goal game this season. "I'm trying to stay grounded and not take anything for granted."

As a rookie last season, Serna found himself in the doghouse with coach Doug Berry and was perceived as a bit of a villain with fans when longtime kicker Troy Westwood was released.

"Mike Kelly is an awesome coach and it's great to joke around with him," said Serna.

"It reminds me a lot of the way coach Mike Riley treated me at Oregon (State). He's sincere when he's talking to you and he wants to get to know you and what's going on with you. I'm glad coach Kelly is the coach."

For his part, Kelly is glad that Serna is his kicker.

"Did you see him make the 60-yarder in practice the other day? Did you see the team's reaction? They swarmed him. They like him. We like Alex and we like having him on our team," he said Thursday.

Long snapper Chris Cvetkovic says everyone's happy so long as the kicks are sliding through the uprights.

"Kickers, punters, long snappers, your friendship is your performance. You have to perform to fit in," said the eight-year CFLer. "Alexis had a great attitude last year, but they were asking a lot of him to learn the Canadian game and do both jobs. This year he's been allowed to focus on his bread and butter and leave the punting to Mike (Renaud). He's been phenomenal. Coach Kelly is good with guys that are doing their job and Mike and Alexis have been doing real well."

Cvetkovic says the two kickers have a budding friendship.

"It's not like (Calgary kickers) Sandro (DeAngelis) and Burke (Dales). There aren't going to be any fights," said Cvetkovic.

"It gets tight with this group. We spend the most time together. We hang out together. We're a brotherhood. We're the cheque-stealers, have the Club Med positions on the team, and we hear about it from the rest of the guys. It helps when you have good guys and we do."

Renaud battled Serna for the punting part of the kicking duties during training camp, but now that the jobs have been handed out, the two pull for one another and are forming a bond.

"We competed in training camp and it was professional as far as our relationship went, but we're together now and we pull for one another," said Renaud. "We feel like we're a good mix and we'd like to be the league's best duo."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

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