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Sports This Week: McCallum to CFL Hall of Fame

Saskatchewan Roughrider fans had to smile as former kicker Paul McCallum was named to the Hall of Fame.
Paul McCallum MKPL sports
Paul McCallum spent multiple stints with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

YORKTON - When the CFL Hall of Fame recently announced its inductees for 2022 Saskatchewan Roughrider fans had to smile with two of those getting the calls having ties to the green and white; kicker Paul McCallum and long-time executive member Roy Shivers.

The pair will be joined by quarterback Ricky Ray and linebacker Chip Cox as first-ballot Hall of Famers, fullback Tim Tindale, and Dick Thornton who played on both sides of the ball. To be inducted in the Builder category will be former CFL head coach Dave Ritchie, and Calgary Colts founder and former general manager Keith Evans.

McCallum, who spent three stints with the Roughriders; 1994-95, 1996-2005 and 2015, said he never really thought about being called to the Hall of Fame.

“It certainly was a very big surprise and quite the honour,” he told Yorkton This Week in a recent interview.

McCallum said he sort of looked at his career as being about the moment, and not about any sort of personal recognition whether in his playing days, or in retirement.

“I just wanted to go out and do my job . . . I just wanted to do a good job,” he said.

It has now been some time since he played, he retired after the 2016 season, and McCallum said he had basically moved on from the game beyond being a fan.

“We always joke about how fast time flies,” he said, adding as he now looks back on his playing days the old adage seems less a joke and more a reality.

“Looking back is pretty cool,” he said, adding he finds himself “thinking I really did that.”

Born in Vancouver, McCallum did a lot in a career which spanned an incredible 24 years.

The former Surrey Ram played in 340 games with the BC Lions, Ottawa Rough Riders and the ‘Riders. He sits second on the list of all-time scorers with 3,145 points, and he is one of only two players to eclipse the 3,000-point milestone.

McCallum hit on 722 career field goals with an 80.2 per cent success rate. He still holds the records for longest made field goal (62 yards) and the most consecutive converts made (801). He recorded 84,093 punt yards and 68,432 kickoff yards.

The two-time Grey Cup champion was named a Division All-Star five times and a CFL All-Star twice.

“My career was so long,” he offered modestly, saying that accounted for much of his success.

So when he thinks about the Hall of Fame nod, McCullum said he is still processing its significance,

“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said.

“When you first start you’re just caught up in the fact you’re playing professional football . . . Maybe you don’t absorb it all.”

But, looking back now he is bringing moments of his career into a new focus, in particular his first Grey Cup in 2006, “and all the preparation and work that went into it . . . At the end of the season I was so mentally drained.”

It was a long career to reflect upon, one which saw McCallum be something of a football gypsy in spite of the final career numbers.

In addition to playing with four different CFL franchises, he was also on one XFL team, an NFL Europa team, and a Scottish third division club.

But while he bounced around a bit, he always seemed to find success.

McCallum was the Las Vegas Outlaws' kicker during the XFL's only season in 2001, scoring the first ever points in XFL history with a 25-yard field goal against the New York/New Jersey Hitmen.

As the kicker with the Scottish Claymores of the World League, McCallum was with the team when they won World Bowl 1996 at Murrayfield Stadium where they defeated the defending champions, Frankfurt Galaxy 32-27 in front of 38,982 fans.

It was after the XFL folded following its inaugural season McCallum returned to the Roughriders and set the CFL record for the longest field goal with a wind-aided 62-yard field goal against the Edmonton Eskimos on October 27, 2001.

Of course Roughrider fans might remember McCallum best for one of the few misses he had in his career. In the 2004 CFL playoffs, McCallum missed a crucial 18-yard field goal in an overtime game against the BC Lions. The Roughriders went on to lose the game, and outraged fans over reacted badly, vandalized McCallum's northwest Regina home with eggs, dumped manure on his neighbour's property, and even uttering death threats to his family.

Frankly the reaction of fans is an example of the worst of fandom. Sports are first and foremost games, and players will fail, but the win, or the loss, should never draw reactions like those McCallum faced. It was a low point as a ‘Rider fan for those of who know better than to react like idiots over a sport result.

McCallum said as a kicker he learned to have a very short memory to survive in the game as long as he did.

As a former soccer player, McCallum said if you have a miscue “you can run around and get the ball again.”

Even in football a receiver might get a chance to redeem a missed catch on the next play.

“As kickers you don’t get that many opportunities,” he said, adding when a kicker misses, they have to walk off the field “and think about it.”

The key is to not over think a good kick, or a bad one.

“It took me some time to figure it out,” said McCallum. “You have to take the good and the bad.”

For McCallum part of the process of staying balanced was to try to block out the opinions of others outside the locker room.

“I stopped reading the newspapers . . . you don’t need what writers have to say about your game,” he said, adding he appreciates that would be far harder to do today with people on their social media accounts through their cell phones.

While removed from the game as a player, he is a fan.

“I am absolutely. You don’t spend 24-years playing without being one,” he said.

And, he likes what he is seeing with the hometown Lions, under new owner Amar Doman. 

“I’ve had a chat with him,” said McCallum. “He wants to bring back the atmosphere they used to have . . . I’m quite happy with the way it started (a 59-15 home field win over Edmonton in week one of the new season).”