Talks with Hawks – Episode 6: Kickers Roundtable

Laurier Football scout Dave Morrissey has spent his time in quarantine reaching out to and catching up with former Golden Hawk Football alumni. The result was a series of interviews with notable members of our Laurier Football community, which Dave was kind enough to share with us.

Other than perhaps the goaltender in hockey or soccer, no position in team sports is so full of pressure than the kicker in football. They sit on the sideline the majority of the game and when they do come in for a field goal or an extra point, they are expected to be perfect. For punts, they are expected to bomb one every time. Today we talk to six of Laurier’s former kickers:  Chris Mamo, Spiros Anastasakis, Ed Becker, Brian Devlin, Ronnie Pfeffer, and Nathan Mesher.

(Dave Morrissey): Okay guys, let’s start off with what you are all doing now.

(Brian Devlin – Laurier Kicker, 2003-2005): I am teaching grades 3 and 4 in my hometown of Sarnia.

(Chris Mamo – Laurier Kicker, 2005-2009): I am a family law (divorce) lawyer. I have my own firm in Toronto NimanMamo LLP.

(DM): I could have used your help about 8 years ago!

(Spiros Anastasakis – Laurier Kicker, 1991-1992): I have been in the security industry now for almost 30 years locally in KW. 22 years ago, I started my own security company called Interactive Security.

(Ronnie Pfeffer – Laurier Kicker, 2011-2014) : I am currently in the CFL. Recently, I signed with the Calgary Stampeders. Previously, I played for Ottawa and Toronto. I have been a part of 2 Grey Cup Championship teams.

(Ed Becker – Laurier Kicker, 1999-2002): I have been a Firefighter in the city of Surrey, British Columbia for the past 15 years. On occasion, I work with high school and university kickers out here.

(Nathan Mesher – Laurier Kicker, 2015-2019): I am currently completing the last semester of my MBA.  After that, I plan to pursue a career in finance, preferably around equity analysis.

(DM): Tell me about your most dramatic kick in your career.

(BD): Well, you and I have already talked about the obvious answer and that is the game winner in the 2005 Vanier Cup over Saskatchewan with slightly under 30 seconds left in the game. Another one that stands out is a game winning 24 yard field goal with about 20 seconds left to beat MacMaster to end their 39 game winning streak in the OUA in 2004.

(SA): We won the Vanier Cup in 1991. In the national semifinal game, we were trailing 22 to 3 at halftime. I didn’t kick a game winner but I had 4 field goals that day and we won 42 to 22.

(NM): The kick that beat Western on the final play of the game to win the 2016 Yates Cup. At that moment, oddly enough, I felt no pressure at all.  I had complete trust in everyone involved on the play. I knew the whole line, the snapper, and the holder were ready. I had confidence in all the practice reps we got in throughout the season and that the kick would be made. I did have previous moments before that in high school playing football and soccer that prepared me for that event, such as taking penalty kicks. Those moments helped me handle the pressure.

(DM): I guess that’s where WLU football announcer Chris Povey came up with the nickname ‘No Pressure Nathan Mesher’! (Mesher recently finished his playing career at WLU and it is the all time leading scorer with 365 points, followed by Mamo, Devlin, and Pfeffer).

(CM): Well, for me it was watching Devlin kick the winner to win the Vanier Cup. I was a rookie that year. He was injured one game during the year and I got to fill in. I had a good game and all the older guys were really supportive. Devlin was a good friend and mentor. I travelled with the team to each game.

(EB): For me, the most memorable moments were playing in a couple of Yates Cup finals and a particular regular season homecoming game vs MacMaster. I scored all of our points, had 2 punts over 60 yards, and was selected player of the game. (Editor’s Note: Becker still holds the record for most punting yards in a season and most career punt yards. He is also the only punter in team history with to have two punts of over 80 yards).

(RP): The most memorable moment for me was getting to run out of the tunnel on Homecoming games. The best one was in my 4th year when I was able to run out with my niece during introductions. It will be a memory I never forget. The two of us still talk about it all the time.

(DM): What does it feel like to have a punt blocked?

(NM): It sucks! Usually I have no idea it is going to happen and all of a sudden there’s just someone flying across the ball.

(EB): I was the placekicker for 3 years and the punter for 5 years. My very first punt in the OUA was blocked! Really, all I am thinking when that happens is to make sure the other team doesn’t score. I had 8 tackles in one season. I really prided myself on being a good last line of defense.

(RP): Obviously, no one wants to have a punt blocked. I was fortunate at Laurier not to have too many blocked but that’s because of the great protection I received. Our special teams players wanted to be successful and they often stayed after practice to work on their technique. I will never forget the work ethic of the punt team and field goal unit. On game days, nobody hesitated or was confused on their assignments, they protected perfectly, and ran down the field and made plays. I believe we were the best punt unit in the league. (Editor’s note: Pfeffer should give himself credit too. In this final year, he set a team record for highest punt average in a year).

(CM): Having a punt blocked is such a feeling of helplessness. It is such a swing in momentum that you do not like to be on the other end of.  I had a great snapper and line so it didn’t happen too much. Matt Carapella at Western used to bet me before games that he was going to block a punt. He came close a few times.

(SA): I never had any of my punts blocked.

(BD): Me neither! As Mamo indicated, I also had a great snapper and line to protect me.  There were a few close calls though.

(DM): Where you ever involved in any fakes?

(BD): Well, technically they weren’t fakes but I am probably the only Laurier kicker to ever attempt two passes in a single game. It was during the 2004 OUA semis at Queens. I had a field goal blocked and the ball came back to me. Just before getting tackled, I threw the ball to Bryon Hickey. He advanced the ball to the one yard line. On the next play, we scored a touchdown to take the lead. On the ensuing extra point, the snap went right through the holder’s hands and came to me. I threw another pass to Hickey but it was too high. Queens got a touchdown on their possession but missed the convert. In the 2nd overtime, they kicked a field goal and we won it on a long TD pass from Ryan Pyear to Joel Wright.

(CM): No designed fakes were called for me. The coaches and players joked that I wasn’t athletic enough. I did have to scramble and throw a couple of times but those were not designed plays. Unfortunately, I was 0 for 3 in my passing career. I blame Peter Quinney for at least one of those. I lead him with a perfect throw but he didn’t get to it. I think my arm was better than the coaches thought it was.

(RP): I am not sure the number of fake kicks we ran but I believe they were all successful. The first time was in a game vs Waterloo. The punt was going to be blocked so I just tucked it and ran and picked up a lot of yards. After that, I was given the green light to do that if I ever saw an opportunity but they made sure I understood that if I did take off, that I had better get the first down and then get out of bounds. (Editor’s Note: Pfeffer was truly one of the fastest guys on the team. I think we should have had him take off at least once every game!)

(SA): There were never any fake field goals that were designed to put the ball in my hands but I vividly recall on one fake field goal where my job was to throw a key block.  It was a legal (in those days) blindside block on the defender chasing our holder. I came at him full speed and smoked him. It was a great feeling and very memorable for the whole team.

(NM): I was never involved in any fakes, but as you know, a couple of times I lined up to kick field goals and was told to intentionally miss.

(DM): Yes, elaborate on what that was all about.

(NM): Carleton had this amazing punt returner Tunde Adaleke who is currently in the CFL. Instead of trying to successfully make a very long field goal or punting, the strategy was to line up in field goal formation and for me to intentionally miss wide and short with the intent the ball would go out of bounds and there would be no return. This confused the other team and prevented them from setting up a proper return. We won that game 17 to 16 and field position played a key role in that game. The strategy was successful.

(DM): Did you ever feel isolated being a kicker?

(SA): All of the guys on the team made me feel like I was a part of the team. I was respected because I did my part. Our team had great chemistry. It was an awesome group of guys. Everybody cared about each other.

(EB): The guys on our teams were all very good. I didn’t feel isolated. In high school, I played both ways and never came off the field, so specializing in kicking was a tough transition. At the beginning of practices, I worked a lot with the O-Line and sometimes I participated on the scout teams.

(CM): I was chosen to be team captain in my final year. I loved my time at WLU from start to finish. I still stay in touch with a lot of the guys and it has been great to watch all the amazing kickers that have played for WLU lately.

(RP): Being a kicker is like being a goalie on a hockey team. Most of practice time is devoted to working on individual technique. When I came to Laurier, every player welcomed me with open arms during training camp. Certain veterans such as Shamawd Chambers, Anton Bennett, Rashad Latouche, and Alex Anthony explained to me what it was going to take to have success at WLU and how to make it to the next level. I have been in the CFL for 5 years and had many ups and downs including multiple injuries. After not getting drafted, I had a tryout with Toronto, got the job, flew out to Saskatchewan the next day, and 5 minutes into my first game I was sent out to try a 50 yard field goal, and I put it straight down the middle.

(DM): I remember that kick vividly. Coach Alexander and I went to some bar to watch that game just to see you play. It was an awesome moment. Finally Ronnie, please recall the infamous mouth guard incident from your freshman year.

(RP): It was a home game vs Macmaster. It was still the windiest game I have ever played in. I was lined up to punt into the wind on our 35 yard line. The snap was high. To avoid getting the kick blocked, I took off and ran. Then, I saw some defenders closing in on me so before I got to the line of scrimmage I punted the ball. The wind held it up in the air and it only went about 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. I ran downfield and caught my own punt. Before the game, I had lost my fitted mouth guard so I just used a brand new one that hadn’t been molded to my teeth. When I caught the ball, a defender hit me at the same time and the mouth guard went to the back of my throat. When I hit the ground, it popped out of my mouth. I went to the sideline and started coughing up a storm.

Talks with Hawks will return soon with Episode 7: Stacey Coray

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the story and the trip down memory lane Dave. Chalk one up for the often overlooked kickers. I had the pleasure to watch 4 of these 5 live and sponsor the last 3 as Adopt-A-Hawks.

    BD miss spoke that Queen’s semi was in 2003, but to make him feel better the WLU stats for that game show him as 1-1 in the passing category!

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