White Rock football player Sean Whyte is heading back to Alberta next season, after inking a one-year deal with the Edmonton Eskimos earlier this week.
The 31-year-old kicker – a graduate of Semiahmoo Secondary and the Surrey Rams junior-football program – recently completed his first full season with the Canadian Football League team, having joined the club midway through the 2015 season after being released by the Montreal Alouettes.
He won a Grey Cup championship with Edmonton that year, and this season, was the league’s most accurate kicker, with a field-goal accuracy rate of 93.8 per cent – the third-highest single-season mark in league history and far higher than the league’s 82.7 per cent average.
As well, he was the only kicker in the CFL last season to be perfect – 43 for 43 – on field-goal attempts inside 49 yards. He also converted 44 of 50 extra-point converts.
“I’m really happy. (The Eskimos) made it very comfortable for me. They wanted me back, I wanted to be back and they matched (the contract) I wanted, it was pretty good,” Whyte told Peace Arch News Tuesday afternoon.
“From the top down, it’s a great organization… good-quality people. Everything about it is great.”
Had he not re-signed with the Eskimos, Whyte – who began his career with the BC Lions – was set to become a free agent in February, though he said he’s glad he won’t need to wade into the free-agency waters.
“I looked at the pros and cons, and there were really no cons at all, so I wanted to go back,” he said.
While contract terms – in years and dollars – play a role in any negotiation, Whyte said there was much more that factored into his desire to return to the Alberta capital, especially after his tenure with his last team, the Alouettes, did not end particularly well. The Als starting kicker since 2011, he was relegated to a backup role in 2015 and eventually released.
“I made (Edmonton) an offer and they took it, and they pretty much assured me that I’m playing – that my (spot on the team) is safe, so there’s no stress,” he said.
“I can just go out there and do my thing. It’s fun to play there… it’s good to feel wanted.”
After his release from Montreal, Whyte told PAN he was just days away from retiring from football and starting a new job before the Esks came calling. He’s since went from the team’s practice roster to the active roster to a Grey Cup title and now, a new contract.
“It all actually feels like yesterday – this year just flew by because we were having so much fun out there. I’ve said to a bunch of people, ‘Didn’t this season go by really quick?’” he said.
“It’s crazy how things go – one minute, you’re wanting to retire, get a real job and live a normal life, and now here I am.”
Now in the offseason, Whyte has resumed training for the 2017 season – his first-ever attempt at hot yoga “was rough,” he laughed – and he insists his new contract will change how he approaches the game.
“I’m just going with the flow. Things are going really well, and for awhile there – that last year in Montreal – I kind of lived with a black cloud over me where it felt like nothing was going right,” he said.
“Since I got to Edmonton, things just started going a lot better and I’m a happier person, that’s for sure.”