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March 17, 2017

Coffee And Kicking

The chance to win a second Grey Cup ring no doubt trumps any other reason for Swayze Waters to be excited about his new home. But the Lions’ new kicker has enjoyed experimenting with an important Vancouver staple all week.

“I really love coffee,” states the 29-year old Mississippi native. “I am excited that Vancouver has lots of great coffee and I already hit up some of those spots this week. Local roasters and Tim Hortons for sure.”

Wouldn’t you know it? Waters happened to plan his visit right in the middle of “Roll Up The Rim” season.

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“I won a free coffee on Roll Up The Rim,” Waters proclaims. “I think I am going to invest in one of those tools that they sell to roll up the rims and go after it this year.”

Yes, if you see a handsome, grinning figure with a southern drawl walking the streets of Vancouver holding a rim roller, you know it is Waters. Say hi. He will most likely stop and talk for 15-20 minutes and ask how your family is in the process. He’s just that kind of guy.

After agreeing to his deal on February 7th, Waters is getting his first long look at the Lower Mainland; all while escorting four college kids in a mini-van. The youngsters are with him as part of an initiative being put on by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This trip was planned even before Waters knew he would be signing with the club.

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“When we originally planned this trip I had tried to take a group to Ghana through a partnership we have through the FCA,” Waters explains. “That fell through. I have a buddy who is a college pastor at our local church that knows a guy here in Vancouver and they had this trip planned 6 or 7 months ago. They had a few spots open for our group so we joined in with them.”

Although Waters stated he knew at the time of the trip planning he would be returning to the CFL, he didn’t know where it would actually be. The opportunity to become a member of the Lions worked itself out on its own.

Waters and his group of student athletes have been helping out The Point Church at SFU, playing games and reaching out to form relationships with fellow Christians.

The outgoing kicker took some time out of his Thursday morning to check out his new facility and have his first face-to-face meeting with Wally Buono. The first encounter didn’t come close to disappointing the 2014 CFL Most Outstanding Special Teams Player.

“We talked a lot on the phone this offseason, but other than that it has just been competition across the field and hearing his name and seeing him on TV, things like that. He has an unbelievable coaching background so I am excited to be part of that.”

“Swayze is an accomplished kicker who can look after all three duties at a very high level,” said Buono when Waters signed. “This is a major signing for the club as it fills a significant need for us after Richie’s departure and allows us to have an extra position player on the roster rather than dressing both a punter and a kicker.”

Waters hopes to pick up where he left off before making another run at the NFL with Carolina last season. After a brief stint with Edmonton to start 2012- where he was teammates with non-other than current Leos’ long snapper Mike Benson– Swayze landed in Toronto and immediately helped the Argonauts pull off the upset over Calgary in the 100th Grey Cup. In his award-winning season of 2014, Waters led the CFL in scoring, field goals and punting average. The last player to lead the league in all three categories in the same season was none other than Lui Passaglia in 1983.

It is those kind of numbers that tell you the club is in good hands in its quest to have one player handle placekicking, punting and kickoff duties in 2017. The production from Richie Leone last season made a huge impact and Waters knows it must continue. One thing is for certain: his experiment in Carolina has done nothing but better him, thanks to a strong relationship forged with Panthers’ veteran placekicker Graham Gano before being cut in training camp.

“Being in Carolina was awesome,” Waters says. “Obviously it didn’t work out like I hoped it would but I met a lot of great guys. Graham and me became really good friends and this offseason I am hoping we are able to sharpen one another. He sends me film, I send him film and I just try to use that as an advantage.”

Along with re-uniting himself with Benson (perhaps a new Cribs duo is in the works?), Waters is also happy to share the same locker room with Bryan Turner whom he played college football with at Alabama-Birmingham.

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“He’s an incredible guy. He just kind of filled me in on the locker room atmosphere and some of the other guys. A few guys on the team have reached out to me on social media and I’ve met some of the coaches. I am just kind of in that process right now.”

Camaraderie makes winning a whole lot sweeter. The quest is on for Waters to earn his second championship ring.

Drinking Tim Hortons java out of Lord Earl Grey’s trophy would be a nice way to cap it all off.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com