B.C. Lions kicker Paul McCallum (left) talks with quarterback Jarious Jackson during practice Tuesday in Whalley. A former Surrey Ram

An all-star and record setter

Former Surrey Ram has his best season as a CFL professional.

It’s already been a season to remember for B.C. Lions kicker Paul McCallum.

But two victories away from a second Grey Cup championship, the Surrey native is looking ahead, and not back on what was quite possibly his best in 19 seasons in the Canadian Football League.

“After the the season, maybe I’ll enjoy it,” he said after practice Tuesday afternoon at the Lions practice facility in Whalley. “But miss a field goal now and it could all be over.”

In a week in which the Lions were preparing for the Western Final against the Edmonton Eskimos Sunday at B.C. Place, the CFL announced McCallum, 41, had earned a second CFL All-star honour, following up on his first a year ago. He is also the West Division nominee for the Top Special Teams player, both honours well-deserved after a record-setting season.

McCallum set a record for consecutive field goals with 30, and his success rate of 94.3 per cent broke former Lion kicker Lui Passaglia’s old record of 90.9 per cent. He also established a new consecutive converts record of 662, a streak which began when he was successful on his first attempt for the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1993.

While admitting he might look back on his success after the season, for now he’s shrugging it off.

“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, I wouldn’t say anything, because I didn’t sit and ponder on what I wanted to do,” he said. “I just put my head down and just tried to make every kick every game.”

The former Surrey Ram didn’t miss many field goals during the regular season, connecting on 50 of 53 attempts. His only misses were from 45, 47 and 57 yards. Inside the 40-yard line, he was perfect on 39 attempts.

“It means a lot, it’s probably the marquee statistic you’re guaged by,” said McCallum of his accuracy record. “For me, it’s the most important stat I have. At the same time, I still think to myself the ones I missed I shouldn’t have. I just made some mental mistakes. Hopefully, I can improve on that next season.”

There is still more to accomplish this season. Should the Lions win Sunday, they will play in the Grey Cup game for just the 10th time in the team’s 56-year history, a remarkable feat since B.C. lost six of its first seven games this season.

The turnaround was sudden, but not surprising, said McCallum.

“That’s what they were, stupid mistakes on our part,” he said. “Once we realized mentally what we had to do, we did that. You can take a team full of superstars, but unless they’re willing to work and play within the who scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. It just took us a while to come around and do just that.”

– In his first year as a bona fide Canadian Football League starter, kicker Sean Whyte made the most of his opportunity, and he may soon have some new hardware to prove it.

The 26-year-old White Rock-South Surrey Titans and Surrey Rams alum, who plays for the Montreal Alouettes, was named last week as the CFL’s Eastern Conference nominee for the Most Outstanding Canadian award.

Whyte is in his first year with Montreal, after spending the previous few seasons with his hometown B.C. Lions, where he split time with veteran kicker Paul McCallum, whom the team elected to keep instead of Whyte.

Whyte was dealt to Montreal in May for a future first-round draft pick.

The move paid off for the Alouettes, as Whyte finished the regular season hitting 45-of-52 field goal attempts, and was tied for second in the league with 197 points.

At one point in the season, he also connected on a club-record 24 straight field goals.

Whyte goes up against the Western nominee, Edmonton Eskimos’ running back Jerome Messam, for the top Canadian award. Like Whyte, Messam is also a former Lion.

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