Canadian Football League

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bombers Looking For New Canadian Football League Kicker?

Alexis Serna leaves Friday for Winnipeg, Manitoba, in an attempt to replace Canadian Football League royalty.

The former Oregon State standout is set to sign a make-good contract with Winnipeg as he attempts to beat out a local legend – Troy Westwood – for the Blue Bombers’ kicking/punting job.

Westwood, 41, is an 18-year CFL veteran – all with the Blue Bombers.

“He’s the king of kicking up there, and I’m going to try to dethrone him,” Serna said Tuesday.

Serna – the Pac-10's No. 2 career scorer, the conference record-holder with 144 consecutive PATs and the 2005 Lou Groza Award winner as the nation’s top placekicker – will be competing with Westwood and Brian Monroe out of Miami to serve as the Blue Bombers’ kicker, punter and kickoff specialist.

“As an import (non-Canadian), you’d better be able to do all three,” Serna says.

After being bypassed in the April NFL draft, Serna moved to Oregon City to live with the parents of his girlfriend, Julie Garcia. He got a job working at the Cascade Athletic Club in Gresham and planned to continue to train for another shot at kicking for an NFL team next season.

But the British Columbia Lions happened to hold an open tryout in Lake Oswego on May 12, and Serna fared well. Suddenly, B.C., Edmonton and Winnipeg were all interested.

Two of Serna’s close friends – former OSU teammate Sam Paulescu, a punter, and another kicker, Aaron Barret – have had short stints with Winnipeg the past two years, basically challenging the aging Westwood for a job.

“It’s like a little ritual with all of us,” Serna said, laughing. “Now it’s come around to me.”

Like Westwood, Oregon State coach Mike Riley is a legend in Winnipeg. Riley coached there seven seasons, the last four as head coach, including Grey Cup championship teams in 1988 and ‘90 before leaving for the World League. Westwood and Riley just missed crossing paths; Westwood’s rookie year was 1991.

Winnipeg general manager Brendan Taman “called coach Riley to ask about me,” said the 5-7, 170-pound Serna, 23. "Part of the reason (the Bombers) were so interested was he gave me a good recommendation."

When Kyle Loomis left the Oregon State program on the eve of training camp last August, Serna was called upon to serve a duel role as the Beavers' punter. He gamely held the job all year but averaged only 35.4 yards per punt, last among the nation's 119 D-I punters.

"I'm punting a lot better now than I did during the season," Serna said. "It's like something started to click a few weeks ago. But the fact that I did punt last year gave me some credentials (with Winnipeg). It showed I can do it.

"I can compete with anybody kicking. The biggest thing will be for me to get comfortable punting, too."

Serna will be getting a late start. Winnipeg opened training camp on Sunday. The Bombers' first exhibition game is June 12 vs. Hamilton.