By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — If it comes down to it, Justin Medlock is ready.
A handful of Grey Cups over the last four decades were decided by a walk-off field goal, or a winning three-pointer in the dying seconds of the game.
Medlock heads into Sunday’s Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on a run of 20 straight field goals made for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, including a perfect 8-for-8 in two playoff games.
“If it comes down to me, I’m pretty confident in it,” Medlock said Saturday at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium. “Hopefully we win by 20, 30, 40, 50, but sometimes it doesn’t come down to that.”
Field goals aren’t as glorified as touchdowns, until the game is on the line and the kicker is suddenly under the hot glare of the spotlight.
Edmonton’s Dave Cutler (1981), Saskatchewan’s Dave Ridgway (1989), B.C.’s Lui Passaglia (1994), Calgary’s Mark McLoughlin and Montreal’s Damon Duval (2009) are among kickers who produced Grey Cup game-winners when the championship’s fate rested on their boot laces.
When Calgary last hosted the Grey Cup a decade ago, Duval missed his first attempt. Montreal’s kicker was given a do-over, however, because Saskatchewan infamously had too many men on the field.
Medlock, a nine-year veteran of the CFL, will play in his second career Grey Cup game Sunday. He’s pursuing both his first championship ring and Winnipeg’s first title in 29 years.
“You hear it all the time when you go to Costco and run into people and it’s ‘hey, bring it home,'” Medlock said.
“It would be awesome to celebrate on Portage Avenue, but you’ve got to stick to your process and worry about the outcome afterwards.”
The 36-year-old from Fremont, Calif., and Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros were both coincidentally Tiger-Cats in a heartbreaking 20-16 loss to the Calgary Stampeders in the 2014 Grey Cup.
Ticats receiver Brandon Banks scored what could have been a winning touchdown on a punt return only for it to be erased by teammate Taylor Reed’s illegal block.
“I think I thought about it for six or seven months,” Medlock said. “Being back here with the Ticats, you see former players and stuff like that, brings back memories. It was a tough one.”
His team trailing 20-7 heading into the fourth quarter in 2014, Medlock booted three field goals with his longest from 37 yards to get his team in striking distance.
Weather conditions and defences can turn a Grey Cup into a kicking contest.
Five field goals by Sandro DeAngelis was key in Calgary’s 22-14 victory over Montreal in 2008, for example.
“Whatever gets it done,” Medlock vowed. “If I’m the guy that needs to kick five field goals and we win fifteen to twelve, that’s how we get it done.”
Medlock went 4-for-4 in frigid conditions at McMahon — his longest 52 yards — in Winnipeg’s 35-14 win over the Stampeders in the Nov. 10 division semifinal.
“I’ve played on teams where he’s made big kicks and I’ve watched him make big kicks over the year,” Collaros said.
“Any time we cross the threshold of where we need to get for him, it’s in the back of your head ‘hey, we have points here.'”
Sunday’s Grey Cup forecast is kicker-friendly with temperatures just above freezing and a west breeze tailing off into the evening.
“It’s pretty ideal for a kicker in November,” Medlock said.
In his fourth season with the Blue Bombers and a year remaining on his contract, that stability contrasts with Medlock’s early career.
Between the NFL and CFL, he was released by eight different teams and changed teams 11 times before landing in Winnipeg in 2016.
After earning the CFL award for top special teams player that season, Medlock contemplated retirement.
Married to former LPGA player Hannah Jun Medlock, the couple have one child and are expecting another. The family splits their time between Florida in the off-season and Winnipeg.
“It’s obviously a little hard travelling back and forth,” Medlock explained. “Once I made the decision to come back, I was all in.
“Winnipeg’s awesome. Great fan base. Great people. I’ve met so many good people at the golf course, just around the city, car dealerships and stuff like that.
“If it wasn’t minus 35 and 50 degrees maybe I’d stay in the winter. That’s some tough stuff right there.”