“I remember [my dad] said he was going through two-a-days and it was brutal. He just looks off to the side and sees the specialists hanging out. He was like, ‘Man, if I have a son, he’s going to learn how to be a snapper,’ so he started making me do it.”

The father in that story is longtime CFL coach and player Mark Nelson, whose exploits include a Grey Cup victory in 2016, when he coached for the Ottawa Red Blacks alongside Rick Campbell, now head coach of the B.C. Lions.

That relationship was pivotal to Kyle’s decision to move north this season after the realization jobs down south were not forthcoming.

“I wasn’t getting anything, so I am a Canadian and I thought I’d come up and play some CFL,” said Kyle, who is competing with Lions’ incumbent long-snapper Riley Pickett this month at training camp in Kamloops.

“In the CFL, it’s awesome that special teams is legitimately a third of the game. I think that’s the coolest thing in the world, especially as a specialist.

“Down in the states, yes, teams harp on it, but you don’t get near the plays you do up here on special teams. It’s so important up here.”

Out of work for more than a year, Kyle is dusting off rust and adjusting to nuances of the Canadian game, including the bigger ball and differing distances to the holder.

“I’ve got to tweak it a little bit,” said Kyle, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 240 pounds. “I’m still learning, especially with the grip, holding it, getting the right spin, the right rotation, to where we can get laces on field goals, and trying to find the right distance.”

Punter Stefan Flintoft and all-star kicker Sean Whyte are helping with the transition and that tutelage includes offering historical background on the handshake celebration that follows successful field goals.

Whyte said the understated embrace was adopted after a social-media missile from the Blue Bombers.

“Me and one other teammate, just one guy and off to the side, would do a little (hand) tap and then golf swing,” Whyte said. “The special teams coach for Winnipeg went online and said, ‘You’re a kicker, you’re not a football player and you don’t deserve to celebrate. You don’t put your body on the line.’ Everyone came to do the golf swing. I’m like, ‘No. Handshakes. Let’s keep it formal.’ That kind of stuck now.”

Added Flintoft: “Some specialists, not to name any names, do a bunch of over-the-top celebration. We’re just running out, doing our job and heading off.”

Whyte is happy to offer support to Kyle, whose father, Mark, coached the kicker from White Rock when he was booting the pigskin for the Montreal Alouettes.

“I was going through a little rough patch and always felt like Mark Nelson had my back,” Whyte said. “The long snapper and holder make me look good. It’s extremely important and not a lot of people give them enough praise. They feel the pressure, too.”

Campbell was quick to credit Pickett for a strong season last year when asked about the competition with Kyle.

“We’ll see how it works out,” Campbell said. “They’re both very good football players. I like to think of them as more than long snappers, so we’re going to kind of see how this goes and let them both work at it.”

Kyle was a long snapper and tight end at New Mexico State from 2007 to 2010, snaring 66 receptions for 559 yards and two touchdowns and recording 18 combined tackles in 50 games.

He played in 107 NFL games, including 89 for San Francisco, 11 for Washington, six for San Diego and one for Indianapolis — and earned more than U.S. $5 million.

“He’s here for the right reasons,” Campbell said. “He just has a love of football, wants to keep going and kind of priced himself out of the NFL. We’re glad to have him here.”


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