Maple Ridge’s McCallum brings home Grey Cup

At 41, Maple Ridge resident finishes a season for the ages with a CFL title

B.C. Lions kicker and Maple Ridge resident Paul McCallum poses with the Grey Cup Wednesday afternoon with Ted Botsis

B.C. Lions kicker and Maple Ridge resident Paul McCallum poses with the Grey Cup Wednesday afternoon with Ted Botsis

Paul McCallum proved, once again, that age is nothing but a number as he kicked a near perfect game Sunday in the 99th Grey Cup, helping to ensure the B.C. Lions a 34-23 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The Maple Ridge resident hit four of five field goal attempts and all three converts in a typically flawless performance Lions fans have come to expect for the journeyman kicker, who despite being 41, is at the peak of his career.

This season, McCallum broke Dave Ridgway’s CFL record of 28 consecutive field goals by kicking a full 30 in a row.

If that wasn’t enough, McCallum broke former B.C. Lion Lui Passaglia’s record for field goal accuracy in a season in the process. He shattered Passaglia’s mark of 90.91 per cent by hitting 94.34 per cent of the field goals he attempted.

McCallum already owns the CFL record for longest field goal, a 62-yarder he kicked in 2001.

While McCallum seems destined for the CFL Hall of Fame, he has no plans to retire just yet. McCallum says he plans to talk to coach and general manager Wally Buono about coming back for another season with the Lions.

“I definitely want to come back,” he says. “I’m not done.”

McCallum credits his longevity to his training regimen. In the off season, he works out with Lions slotback Geroy Simon, as well as with a personal trainer.

“Staying in shape is the key,” he says, especially at his advanced age.

In football, where the end of a career could be an injury away, McCallum swears by cold laser therapy to help him rehab from the wear and tear of the game.

The therapy involves firing a low-level laser at the injured tissue, which helps stimulate blood flow and relive pain.

“It works at the cellular level to rejuvenate muscles, stop joint pain and inflammation,” he says.

McCallum first tried a Class 3 laser after injuring himself in a preseason game.

“It was a short week, and my leg was black and blue,” he says. “I could feel the leg healing within hours and I played that Thursday.”

McCallum was so impressed with the results he bought a Class 4 laser for the team’s trainers to use at the B.C. Lions practice facility.

While McCallum grew up in Surrey, where the Lions’ practice facility is located, he opted instead to move to Maple Ridge after signing with B.C. in 2006. In the off season, McCallum works as a realtor for MacDonald Realty.

McCallum took the Grey Cup out for lunch at Dino’s Restaurant on Lougheed Highway on Wednesday, prior to the Lions’ victory party at B.C. Place.

“I love the support I get here,” he says.

“I really enjoy it here, that’s why I live and work here, and decided to raise my kids here.”

Students at Yennadon elementary, where McCallum’s children attend, held a boisterous pep rally to cheer him on to a Grey Cup win on Friday.

McCallum says he plans to repay the school’s support with a visit from the Grey Cup when he gets his official day with Canadian football’s biggest prize.

There wasn’t much support for McCallum in Saskatchewan after he missed a crucial 18-yard field goal in overtime in the 2004 playoffs. Despite spending 12 years with the team, upset fans egged McCallum’s home and dumped manure on his front lawn.

A year and half later, McCallum was a B.C. Lion, and in his first season with club won the 2006 Grey Cup, defeating the Roughriders 45-18 in the West Division final.

“That’s so far behind me,” he says now.

Sunday’s win was his second with the B.C. Lions, two more than he ever got with Saskatchewan.

This season was not without hardship, however.

The Lions got off to a disastrous 0-5 start to the season. Despite the lack of wins, McCallum says he and the team never lost hope.

“In all those games we lost, we weren’t getting blown out, so we knew we were close,” he says. “We knew coming out of camp he had a really good team, but just because you know you’re a good team, doesn’t mean you’re going to win.”

There were dropped balls, missed tackles, bad returns. The Lions weren’t getting beat, they were beating themselves.

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot,” he says. “We needed to refocus.”

The Lions did just that, rattling off 10 wins in 11 games to finish the season first in the West Division.

“We all beared down as a group, and once we started winning, we just didn’t stop,” says McCallum.

The key to the Lions’ success has been the play of the team’s Canadian contingent, he says.

Along with McCallum, players like Andrew Harris, Shawn Gore, Akeem Foster, Bret Johnson, Angus Reid, Marco Iannuzzi, and Paris Jackson all made their presence felt in the Grey Cup, and all season long.

“If you are going to be successful in this league, you need to have a good core of Canadian players,” he says. “Everyone pulled their weight, and did what they did well.”