Murray Siding native finds groove, happiness with Blue Bombers
Justin Palardy has found a home, and success, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in his rookie campaign in the Canadian Football League. Winnipeg Free Press photo
TRURO - It can take a long time to realize things worked out for the best.
But Justin Palardy knew it the moment he stepped into the Winnipeg Blue Bombers locker room.
"When I got to Winnipeg, that's when football became fun for me again," the 22-year-old Murray Siding native, who handles the place kicking duties for the Bombers, said as he reflected on his rookie campaign in the Canadian Football League.
It was just 10 days after he had been released by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who picked him in the fifth round, 36th overall in last spring's draft. Palardy, a standout kicker for four record-setting CIS seasons with the Saint Mary's Huskies, was placed in a punting role with Hamilton, the weaker of his kicking abilities. After a month, the two sides parted ways and Winnipeg came calling. Palardy beat out a pair of contenders in a mid-season tryout for the Bombers' place-kicking job. It made for a rollercoaster campaign for the five-foot-11, 200-pound Palardy.
"Things always happen for a reason," he said.
"There were a lot of ups and downs but it ended up turning out for the best. Overall I thought I had a great season and I hope to continue it in 2011."
If the end of his 2010 campaign is any indication, that's just what is going to happen. Palardy was named the CFL's special teams player of the week this week after going 6-for-6 in last week's 35-32 loss to the Calgary Stampeders to finish the season 26-for-30. His 86.7 per cent success rate is a new franchise best. He also set a new career high with a 51-yard field goal.
It was a performance that has Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice excited to see how Palardy develops as a kicker.
"His leg is going to get stronger," he said. "He's a good pickup for us and we're excited to have him in the fold."
Kicking was an Achilles heel for the Bombers until Palardy arrived. Winnipeg started the season with American Alexis Serna, who struggled. He was replaced by Louie Sakoda, who went down with an injury, opening the door for Palardy.
"I remember standing on the sidelines thinking 'Can this kid get it done?' and then he hit a 46-yarder," LaPolice said of Palardy's first field goal during a game in Montreal. "He's made some big-time kicks for us and he's playing with some confidence."
Palardy said he was able to get back on his feet and do what he loves best - kicking field goals - because of the atmosphere in Winnipeg.
"I love the city and the team and the guys and the coaches," he said. "It's awesome. It's where I want to be.
"I'm definitely happy and doing something I love."
Since arriving in the 'Peg', Palardy has become good friends with punter - and his holder - Mike Renaud, long snapper Taylor Inglis and special teams co-ordinator Kyle Walters. With the team boasting a relatively young roster, Palardy said he felt at home from Day 1.
"It makes things more comfortable in the locker room and makes it easier to do what I love," Palardy said.
It also leaves Palardy excited to get back to training camp in the spring and help the Bombers get back to the playoffs after their disappointing 4-14 run this year leaves them watching this weekend's start of the postseason.
"We should have a great team and I'm looking forward to winning my job back because I know they'll bring someone else in, but the competition is good," Palardy said. "It makes you push yourself and, hopefully, I can help the team win."
To make that happen Palardy, who is now back home, will train here and in Halifax with former CFL kicker Terry Baker - whom Palardy has worked with extensively in the past - while finishing his bachelor of arts degree at Saint Mary's.
"I'm going to get a lot of help from him," Palardy said. "He's going to help me get a little more distance on my kickoffs. So I'll get that going and be a threat next year for the Bombers."