The Toronto Argonauts' thrilling 39-34 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Friday had plenty of expected heroes, including our first star of the week in QB Ricky Ray (also named the Gibson's Finest Offensive Player of the Week by the CFL for his 368-yard, four-touchdown performance), running back Chad Kackert (112 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries) and reigning league Most Outstanding Player Chad Owens (nine catches for 95 yards). However, it also featured two other players doing something highly unexpected: after Toronto kicker/punter Swayze Waters injured himself on a kickoff, receivers Spencer Watt and Dontrelle Inman and fullback Alexander Robinson stepped up to handle the kicking duties for the rest of the game. Here's video of Waters' injury:
That clip appropriately ends with TSN play-by-play man Gord Miller saying "And now the question will be, who will kick for Toronto?" At the time, there wasn't an obvious answer, as the Argonauts didn't have another kicker dressed: they'd recently signed veteran Noel Prefontaine but put him on the practice roster, so he was on the sidelines in street clothes. Shortly thereafter, though, Watt stepped up in a big way, reeling in two great catches (including a diving end-zone catch on a third-down gamble the Argos had to take thanks to not wanting to kick a field goal) and then kicking the convert himself:
Perhaps the most remarkable play came after that, though, as Watt then stepped up to take the ensuing kickoff and drove it reasonably deep. That's tougher than hitting an extra point. For the rest of the contest, Watt and Robinson handled the kickoffs (Waters tried to return for the final convert, but appeared to hurt himself more in the process) while Inman took on the punting duties, and they all did pretty well. None of them are likely to retain those roles long-term (Waters is out for at least two weeks, so Prefontaine will step in), but for guys who don't normally kick, this was remarkable. Watt told argonauts.ca he initially wanted to try the field goal instead of going for it on third down, but Argos' head coach Scott Milanovich didn't trust his kicking prowess that much.
"I wanted to kick the field goal," Watt said with a laugh. "It was like 25 yards, 30 yards? But he had no faith in me, he had no faith in my leg. So we went for it on third down."
Watt said he briefly forgot after the touchdown that he'd have to do the convert.
"I look back and Swayze's not there, and I go, 'Oh yeah, that's me,'" he said.
He said his first reaction when he saw Waters get hurt was fright.
"Once I saw Swayze go down, I was like, 'Oh, sh*t."
The efforts of Watt and the others were appreciated by their coaches and teammates, though. In a CFL.ca piece, Milanovich said he was proud of them for stepping outside their assigned roles.
"You've got to give credit to guys like Spencer Watt and Dontrelle Inman that came in and kicked the ball and didn't do anything to hurt us," head coach Scott Milanovich said. "That's not easy to do when you're kind of a fish out of water doing something you're not used to doing.”
Ray said it was an exceptional challenge, one he admired them for stepping up to.
“That’s huge for Spencer to kick an extra point and kickoff and to see Dontrelle kicking those punts. I don't think I've been around to see something like that and I've been around for a long time. It was pretty cool to see those guys step in and do that."
It's not entirely a unique situation, though, as unusual players kicking has occasionally happened in both the CFL and the NFL. One of the most memorable CFL ones came on August 2, 2007 (thanks to Jared Book for help finding this), when Alouettes' kicker Damon Duval was ejected from a game against the Toronto Argonauts for starting a fight after he missed a field goal and Dominique Dorsey returned it for a touchdown:
As the Alouettes didn't have another kicker, that led to slotback Ben Cahoon taking over, and he hit the winning field goal in overtime:
Famed CFL quarterback Doug Flutie's another man who pulled off rare positional-player kicks. One of the most memoravble came in 2006 while the 43-year old Flutie was serving as the New England Patriots' backup quarterback. In a game against Miami, he converted the first successful drop kick since the 1941 NFL championship:
We've also seen other positional players like Ndamukong Suh kicking on occasion, so these moments do occasionally happen. They just don't happen much, and a sequence like Watt's where he set up a touchdown, scored the touchdown, kicked the extra point and then kicked off is incredibly rare. Friday's kicking game didn't go how the Argos drew it up, but it worked out well for them, and that's thanks to the versatility of players like Watt, Inman and Robinson.