The Saskatchewan Roughriders managed to maintain two perfect streaks with their 32-20 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Saturday. The Riders improved their record to a spotless 5-0, and Saskatchewan kicker Chris Milo found some perfection of his own, nailing all three of his field goal attempts to move to 12 for 12 on the season. It might have helped that they received substantial support from the crowd: Saturday's game in Guelph may have been a road one for the Riders, but they had plenty of green-clad fans there, as you can see from photos of the game. One of those green-clad fans was Milo's mother, who gave him the congratulatory hug and kiss shown above afterwards. It's not a bad outcome at all for Milo, whose hold on a CFL job seemed tenuous at the end of last year. He's persevered, he's found a role he excels at, and he's been a crucial part of Saskatchewan's success this season.
Things haven't always been as smooth sailing for Milo, though. He had an impressive college career with the Laval Rouge et Or, winning two Vanier Cups with them while posting Quebec records for kicking points and field goals made (he's third in CIS history in both categories) and earning two first-team All-Canadian selections, but he wasn't chosen until the fourth round of the 2011 CFL draft, and his 30th-overall selection put him a ways behind the two other kickers taken in that draft (Brody McKnight, selected eighth overall by Montreal, and Hugh O'Neill, chosen 11th-overall by B.C.). Milo's 2011 rookie season was okay, as he converted 22 of 26 field-goal attempts (84.6 per cent) and averaged 43.2 yards on 79 punts, but he struggled in 2012, going just 11 for 17 (64.7 per cent) on field goals during the Riders' first five games before being replaced in that role by Sandro DeAngelis. He continued on as the punter until suffering an ankle injury late in the year, and did well there, averaging 44.4 yards per punt, but seemed to be in a tough fight for a job heading into this year with the team bringing in the once-touted McKnight and NFL veteran Ricky Schmitt.
Milo found a way to shine on field goals, though, and beat out McKnight for that job, while Schmitt was kept as the punter (he's also excelled this season, averaging 43.7 yards per punt). How'd he become so proficient at field goals after losing that job last year? Well, as Milo told The Regina Leader-Post's Ian Hamilton, he spent the offseason in B.C. training with former CFL kicker Don Sweet. Sweet also trains another CFL star, Calgary kicker Rene Paredes, who just broke the league's record for consecutive field goals (but did so thanks to a CFL rules quirk). Milo and Paredes have been long-time friends thanks to growing up together in Quebec and competing throughout the years (Paredes also shone at a Quebec school, as he played for the Concordia Stingers). Milo told Hamilton Sweet's instruction has proved vital for both kickers both physically and mentally, and it's the mental side that's particularly helped him this year:
"I thought last year I lost that a bit and struggled at the beginning of the season," Milo said. "Deep down, I knew I could do it, but it was good to go to Don. He was reassuring and got my confidence back.
"(Paredes) is working with Don as well," Milo added. "It's just the mentality that he puts in our minds, just knowing that we can make every kick and knowing that if we do the right things, it's going to go through for us.
"It's about believing in ourselves and believing in our (leg) swing."
Well, there's plenty to believe in for Milo so far, and he clearly has solid family support as well. If he keeps kicking like this, though, it will be a whole green-clad province electing not to stop believing...