LANGLEY â€” His right foot is the tool Paul McCallum uses to ply his trade, one that has made him a household name in the Canadian Football League.
The former Surrey Ram and Queen Elizabeth Secondary grad â€” who celebrated his 45th birthday on Jan. 7 â€” kicked field goals on a consistent basis for the BC Lions this past season.
And he’s not ready to hang up his cleats just yet.
McCallum’s career is a decorated one, to say the least. In a CFL career that has spanned 22 years, and hopefully counting,
McCallum has won two Grey Cups, is a five-time CFL allstar, and has been awarded as the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Canadian and as the CFL’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player.
In 2011, McCallum set the record, with 30, for the most all-time consecutive field goals made in the CFL. That also happened to be the year the Lions won their last Grey Cup, beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 34-23 before 54,313 fans at BC Place Stadium.
McCallum also holds the record for the longest field goal made at 62 yards and highest field goal kicking accuracy in a single season.
As a young CFLer, McCallum never imagined he’d still be playing in his mid-40s.
He is the oldest player in the league, mirroring the career of one of his predecessors, Lui Passaglia, who spent a record-breaking 25 years (1976-2000) as a Lion and scored more points in that time than any professional football player in the sport’s history.
"I remember Lui kicking field goals at an even younger age than I am today and thinking, ‘When is he going to retire?’" said McCallum, who now lives in Langley. "But it comes by real quick and I’m still having fun, and before you know it, here I am."
This past season turned out to be a frustrating one for both McCallum and the Lions. The team was just average, finishing 9-9 and ended up crossing over to the CFL East in the playoffs. The Lions were trounced 50-17 by the Montreal Alouettes in the Eastern semifinal.
Individually, McCallum was good on 38 of his 42 field goals attempts.
He led all CFL kickers with a 90.5 per cent field goal percentage, and made all 33 of his convert attempts.
Also during the season, he became the second player in pro football history to surpass 3,000 career points, the other being Passaglia.
But McCallum wasn’t at all satisfied.
"It was a very tough season for a lot of reasons, from a team standpoint," McCallum said. "I played all right. I could have done better. I missed field goals that I don’t think I should have missed. It’s frustrating, looking back on the mistakes I made. But health-wise, and ability-wise, I feel I’d still like to play another year."
These days he’s focusing on being a realtor, a year-round occupation â€” even during the summer and fall when the CFL is in full-swing.
He’s a pro when it comes to balancing his two occupations. To wit: the morning of the 2011 Grey Cup, McCallum was hard at work, booking showings for the following week.
"It’s not hard at all," McCallum said. "I never take more work than I can handle. I have more work (as a realtor during the season) but I just don’t take it."
When it comes to longevity in professional team sports, you couldn’t pick a better role than kicker. "It goes without saying," McCallum said. "There’s no comparison with the amount of abuse that other players take on their bodies compared to mine. Absolutely, a field goal kicker has a longer career."
To continue to a 23rd season, McCallum focuses on staying in shape. He begins to seriously work out in February to get ready for a CFL season that gets underway in the summer.