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After thinking pro football career was over, Palardy finds himself back in CFL

TORONTO - Justin Palardy figured he was done with pro football.

Murray Siding native Justin Palardy is hoping to raise the bar on his personal performance this season and help the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a Grey Cup title. Their campaign kicks off Thursday against the Montreal Alouettes. Palardy will be joined in the league this season by fellow Colchester County native Brett Lauther of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. File photo

The 27-year-old was helping coach a bantam boys squad in his native Truro, N.S., and preparing for a career in law enforcement when he received a surprise phone call from Toronto Argonauts GM Jim Barker on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, Palardy was back lining up field goals after joining the Argos practice squad.

“I was completely focused on my life after football,” Palardy said. “I didn't think I was ever going to play again and it didn't bother me at all, I was ready to move on.

“But 15 minutes before (the bantam team's) practice I was on the phone with Mr. Barker. I felt bad breaking the news to the kids I was coaching, I felt pretty emotional and like I was letting them down. But these opportunities don't come around very often and this could be the last one of my life so I had to jump on it, ride it and see where it goes.”

Toronto (6-5) needs a punter/kicker with incumbent Swayze Waters (groin) sidelined. The Argos also have American punter/kicker Michael Palardy - no relation - on the roster.

“I would say that's rare,” Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich said about the odds of a team having two kickers with the same unique last name.

The coincidence hasn't escaped Justin Palardy either.

“I didn't know (Michael) personally,” Justin Palardy said. “I knew he played at the University of Tennessee and kind of just followed him because of his last name.

“We might be related . . . I'll have to look into that and get some DNA testing or something. Apparently his family is French-Canadian and mine is French-Canadian. He's got a great last name, that's all I've got to say.”

There is a very distinct difference between the two, though, as Michael Palardy is a left-footed kicker. Justin Palardy kicks with his right.

“Something got mixed up,” Justin Palardy said with a chuckle.

Milanovich said the Argos will decide Friday who'll handle what kicking duties Saturday night in Ottawa versus the Redblacks (7-4) but added “there's a chance,” Justin Palardy will play.

Michael Palardy has punted well but struggled to find consistency kicking field goals. Justin Palardy has made 114-of-139 career field goals (82 per cent) with his longest being 51 yards over a five-year CFL career also spent with Hamilton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Saskatchewan.

The Nova Scotian also sports a 42.1-yard punting average and played in Winnipeg's 34-23 loss to the B.C. Lions in the 2011 Grey Cup.

But given what's riding on Saturday's contest - a win would move Toronto into second in the East based on having won the season series - the Argos can't afford to gamble with their kicking game.

Palardy's last CFL field goal came during the 2014 exhibition season with Ottawa before he was released. He joined the Roughriders' practice roster later that year before being let go.

Palardy, a former Saint Mary's star, went in the fifth round of the 2010 CFL draft to Hamilton and played in five games as a punter before being released.

He joined Winnipeg in August 2010 and made 26-of-30 field goals for a club-record 86.7 per cent success ratio. He followed that up by hitting 40-of-52 field goals (76.9 per cent) in 2011.

The following season, Palardy was Winnipeg's nominee for the CFL's top special-teams player after making 39-of-45 field goals (86.7 per cent) and averaging a career-high 57.3 yards on 70 kickoffs.

But after hitting 9-of-12 field goals in '13, Palardy was replaced by Canadian Sando DeAngelis and released by Winnipeg on Aug. 27, 2013. He signed with Ottawa in March 2014.

Despite his absence from the CFL, Palardy said it won't take him long to get back into the swing of things.

“It's the same-sized field, same uprights,” he said. “You've just got to step back and enjoy the moment . . . I'm just here to have some fun.

“My body knows what to do. I just have to stay within myself, have fun, enjoy the moment and let it go.”

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