Castillo is ‘feel­ing it, liv­ing it’

Kick­ing can­di­date said he learned a lot from for­mer Ti­cat Justin Med­lock

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW EDWARDS

Field goal kick­ing can be test of men­tal for­ti­tude, given the phys­i­cal chal­lenges and the pres­surepacked en­vi­ron­ment un­der which it is of­ten per­formed. But punt­ing? Even the name elic­its a cer­tain de­gree of mun­dane sim­plic­ity.

Yet for the three can­di­dates vy­ing for the job as kicker of the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats, the act and art of drop­ping and kick­ing the foot­ball is likely to be the dif­fer­ence between em­ploy­a­bil­ity and a ticket home. And given that the lot of them are place-kick­ers first and pun­ters a dis­tant sec­ond — maybe even third — things can get a lit­tle stress­ful even with­out the up­rights as part of the equa­tion.

“The big­gest thing with punt­ing is be­liev­ing that you can do it con­sis­tently,” says Ser­gio Castillo, one of the three kick­ers in camp. “When I stand back there now, I be­lieve I’m go­ing to catch it, take two steps and boom. It’s about be­liev­ing it, feel­ing it and liv­ing it.”

That con­fi­dence did not come quickly or eas­ily. Castillo got his first CFL op­por­tu­nity when he came to Hamil­ton in 2014 as an mid-sea­son in­sur­ance pol­icy be­hind Justin Med­lock his punt­ing — and his re­la­tion­ship with Med­lock — was of­ten rocky. But when the two were re­united in Win­nipeg last sea­son, Castillo was able to forge a friend­ship with the no­to­ri­ously metic­u­lous Med­lock, who schooled him the nu­ances of the Cana­dian kick­ing game.

“I think be­ing with Med­lock for half the sea­son, I learned a bunch. It brought my game to a dif­fer­ent level, es­pe­cially men­tally: how to pre­pare, how to carry my­self,” Castillo said. “I came in as a kicker and I’ve re­ally worked on my punt­ing the last cou­ple of years — it’s all Med­lock and I talk about now.”

Of the three can­di­dates — only Castillo has CFL ex­pe­ri­ence and it’s lim­ited at that: six games played, 10 of 13 (76.9 per cent) on field goals, 44.6 yard av­er­age on 21 punts. Craig Peter­son has spent the last two sea­sons in the Arena Foot­ball League — not much punt­ing there — while Ryan Hawkins played four years at North­ern Ari­zona Univer­sity, mak­ing 24 of his 29 field goal at­tempts (82.8 per cent) and punt­ing 73 times for an av­er­age of 47.7 yards.

New spe­cial teams co-or­di­na­tor Den­nis McK­night says the first two days of work­outs haven’t re­vealed much ex­cept ner­vous­ness.

“Right now, they’re very in­con­sis­tent, ev­ery­body is press­ing too much,” he said.

“It’s like go­ing on the driv­ing range and hit­ting bombs, then I go to the first tee and see sand left, wa­ter right and I start try­ing to steer it and I can’t do my job.”

McK­night spent 11 years in the NFL as a long snap­per and so has a fa­mil­iar­ity with the chal­lenges of the kick­ing game and an idea of what char­ac­ter­is­tics he’s look­ing for.

“I spent 20 years with my head between my legs look­ing at those guys and I know what the men­tal­ity is,” McK­night said. “No­body gives a crap about them un­til some­thing bad hap­pens. So I’m look­ing for the tough­est guy, men­tally. Who can miss four kicks on a rainy day and come back and make a 52-yarder?”

Head coach Kent Austin said ev­ery kick and punt is be­ing metic­u­lously charted but a sig­nif­i­cant amount of weight will be given to the per­for­mances in the team’s two pre-sea­son games. The first one takes place June 8 in Ot­tawa, the sec­ond eight days later at Tim Hor­tons Field.

“A lot of these guys early in their life do all three but then as they get older they start to spe­cial­ize in one area. What you typ­i­cally find is they are re­ally good at one of the three, maybe OK at one of the other two and not so good in the third,” Austin said.

“What we’re try­ing to find is a blend of skills where there’s a level of con­sis­tency that we can trust.”

Sounds sim­ple enough. Ex­e­cut­ing it, how­ever, that’s a lit­tle harder. NOTES: The Ti­cats had a lighter prac­tice day on Tues­day as part of the team’s data-driven train­ing camp sched­ule. The team did some light on-field work and team yoga ses­sion . ... Austin said there have been no ma­jor in­juries so far but a few play­ers will miss up to a week with small nicks.

JOHN REN­NI­SON, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Ser­gio Castillo launches one at Ti­cat train­ing camp at McMaster’s Ron Joyce Field.

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