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All-star kicker Rene Paredes combines football and firefighting this CFL season

Calgary Stampeders Rene Paredes watches his game winning field goal with Cody Grace against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the second half of their CFL football game in Calgary on November 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

CALGARY — Rene Paredes is the most veteran player in the Calgary Stampeders' locker room and a rookie at the fire station.

The six-time CFL all-star kicker and two-time Grey Cup winner with the Stampeders has a hybrid season ahead of him combining football with firefighting.

The 2022 season would have been the last for Paredes if he, the Stampeders and the Calgary Fire Department hadn't come up with a plan for him to pursue both professions in 2023.

So there's been a few adjustments for the 38-year-old as he embarks on his 12th season as a Stampeder, not the least of which is standing on different rungs of the ladder in each outfit.

"I'm a captain here. I'm a rookie all over again over there," Paredes said Thursday at McMahon Stadium before listing his duties as a probationary firefighter.

"I've got to keep everything clean. I've got to cook. Make sure the coffee is ready. Little things like that," he said.

Paredes works two 24-hour firefighting shifts per week. Those shifts kept him out of three on-field sessions in the first dozen days of training camp.

"I have both schedules for the whole year. I'm planning ahead. I know what days I'll miss here," Paredes said. "It won't be too crazy."

Paredes was born in Venezuela, but grew up in Pierrefonds, Que., and played his college ball at Concordia. 

He says his parents are in Calgary for training camp to help out on the home front. 

He and wife Melyssa have sons aged six and three.

Paredes says he won't miss any games because he's traded the three shifts on his firefighting schedule that would have bled into game days.

Paredes and special teams coach Mark Kilam have come to an understanding on the kicker's workload as Paredes gets deeper into his career.

"Even if I was here full time, I wouldn't be kicking every day," Paredes pointed out. "Kilam and I have been working together for 12 years. He knows what I need to do to get my work done."

Paredes has been Calgary's Mr. Reliable and Mr. Clutch, with the exception of a rough 5-for-8 outing in the 2021 West Division semifinal.

Paredes resumed his consistency in 2022 when he led all CFL kickers with 209 points off his boot. 

His field-goal conversion rate was 90 per cent. Paredes ranked first in field goals from 40-plus yards (40).

Paredes is second all-time on the franchise's points scored list (1,908) behind Mark McLoughlin (2,957), who was Calgary’s kicker from 1988 to 2003. 

In 2021, Paredes became the 10th player in CFL history to kick 400 career field goals. He's six away from a career 500. 

Since signing with the Stampeders in 2011, Paredes has played every game except one in his rookie season.

Paredes earned the CFL's special teams award in 2013 and was twice the runner-up for it (2015, 2021). 

He's compiled stretches of 39, 32 and 30 straight games without a missed field goal during his career. 

Paredes is a perfect 11-for-11 in field-goal attempts in his five career Grey Cup appearances.

His body of work warranted accommodation of his career aspirations beyond football, Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson said.

"I don't expect him to miss much," Dickenson said. "It's easier to be a kicker and do it. I don't know if it would work ... where you're actually a defensive tackle and some other position. Rene is here almost every day and he's been kicking well and he looks like he's in great shape.

"In my opinion, his salary probably is less than some other kickers that I think he's as good or better than. He made that concession in order to do these type of things, which shows he's a team player, which is what the fire department is all about as well."

Paredes confirmed he took a pay cut this season to support his current arrangement.

"I wasn't going to go anywhere else," Paredes said. "If I get traded tomorrow, I'm retiring. I want to be here. I've been here for 12 years. Calgary is my home now. There's no other team I would play for.

"We have a good team. I thought last year we would have had a good chance for a run. We have a very similar team. We've added a couple good guys here and there. I just want to win a Grey Cup."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2023.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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