Mentally tough Justin Medlock tasked with fixing Blue Bombers' kicking game - InfoNews

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Mentally tough Justin Medlock tasked with fixing Blue Bombers' kicking game

Hamilton Tiger-Cats' kicker Justin Medlock (7) celebrates his game-winning field goal in the end of fourth quarter CFL Eastern Division Semifinal football action against the Toronto Argonauts in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. Medlock is well-equipped to deal with the pressure of having to turn around the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' kicking game this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
June 02, 2016 - 2:48 PM

WINNIPEG - Justin Medlock shouldn't have a problem handling the pressure of trying to turn around the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' kicking game. The CFL veteran's mental toughness has been tested often on professional and personal levels.

There was a car accident in college that led to a drunk-driving charge, a forgettable year when he suited up for five teams and his wife's diagnosis of lupus that cut short her pro golfing career.

But the 32-year-old has overcome those challenges to become the most accurate kicker in CFL history, with a career field-goal percentage of 87.5 through five seasons.

"I come from an NFL background so I know a lot of pressure," Medlock said after Thursday's practice.

"If you're in the kicking business, there's a lot of pressure so I'm used to it."

The Bombers signed the former Hamilton Tiger-Cat on the first day of free agency to improve their kicking game that could kindly be described as inconsistent last season.

Bomber kickers Lirim Hajrullahu and Sergio Castillo had combined to make only 32 of 45 field-goal attempts (70.3 per cent) last year. Hajrullahu is now with Toronto and Castillo is at Bombers camp.

Their numbers paled in comparison to Medlock, who connected on a Ticat-record, career-high 89.4 per cent of his field goals (42-of-47).

The California native played college ball at UCLA from 2003-06 and made 70 of his 80 field-goal attempts.

But his time with the team was marred by an accident in December 2005. His truck rolled over after hitting a call box on an off-ramp. His passenger, future wife Hannah Jun, suffered a neck injury, but fully recovered.

Medlock was fined and sentenced to three years' probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanour drunk-driving charge. The Bruins had suspended him the day after the accident until he was sentenced four months later.

"I'm a big advocate of safe driving," Medlock said. "You make some mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes.

"There were some big repercussions. I learned a lot from it."

Medlock was drafted by the NFL Kansas City Chiefs in 2007 (160th overall), but was released after the first regular-season game. He signed with St. Louis the following year, but was also released.

He headed north in 2009 to kick for the Argonauts, where he was 40-of-46 for field goals in 17 games and also punted.

The Washington Redskins signed him in February 2010, but it was the beginning of a year to forget with five teams.

The Redskins waived him on June 14, Detroit claimed him and waived him on June 29. He signed with Omaha of the UFL in September, but was only there for two days.

Toronto brought him back, he played four games, but was waived on Oct. 12. Two days later, he was with Edmonton, but didn't play.

"It was tough, but I got through it," Medlock said. "That was a hard point. I thought I was going to retire then."

The Eskimos traded him to Hamilton in March 2011, where he stuck for one season. Then it was off to the Carolina Panthers in 2012, Oakland in 2013 and back to the Tiger-Cats in 2014.

Medlock said he thought of retiring this off-season as it was difficult to split time between Canada and his home in Jupiter, Fla.

"You get to play a sport that you love, but I have a mortgage," he said. "Sometimes you think that it's time to move on, but I'll play as long as I can."

His wife remains in Florida. She was diagnosed with lupus in 2014 while playing on the LPGA Tour and later retired. The autoimmune disease can cause inflammation in parts of the body.

"She tried to play, but her hands were really messed up so it was pretty bad and brutal, but she's a fighter and she kept going," Medlock said. "She's feeling good now. She's off a lot of her meds."

Being able to deal with whatever comes his way is one reason he may meet the expectations of Bomber coaches and fans.

"I think I can really help the team out, put some points on the board," he said. "I really think I can be a difference-maker."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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