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September 7, 2018

Notebook: Brett Lauther meets his mentor

Early in Brett Lauther’s CFL career, a veteran kicker took the young man under his wing.

Five seasons later, Lauther — who’s now the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ placekicker — still talks every day with his mentor: Justin Medlock, now of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“He’s probably one of my best friends who isn’t someone from back home (in Truro, N.S.) who I could see every day,” Lauther said. “We FaceTime often, Snapchat or whatever it is. We’re always talking.”

They’ll likely chat again Saturday, after their teams meet at Investors Group Field (2 p.m., CKRM, TSN).

Lauther was selected by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the seventh round (53rd overall) of the 2013 draft and played four games with them that season. The following year, the Tiger-Cats brought in Medlock to handle their kicking duties — a move that sent Lauther to the practice roster.

Seven years Lauther’s senior, Medlock offered advice of all kinds to his fellow kicker.

“I say that there’s a lot of people back home who do a lot of things for me, but he’s obviously the biggest influence for me as someone who’s doing the same job and knows what I’m talking about,” Lauther said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him because of a lot of the stuff that he has taught me.”

Ironically, Lauther could still be in Hamilton if it wasn’t for Medlock’s arrival there in 2014.

“You can look at it that way, but you can also look at it that if I didn’t get to be behind someone who’s as professional as he is and who takes his job as seriously as he does, I could have been out of football by now,” Lauther replied. “He showed me what needs to be done.

“It’s not that I wasn’t working hard enough, but he showed me how to mentally tune things out and do what you need to do to be a pro and to be successful in this league.”

Lauther had numerous CFL tryouts after leaving Hamilton, but he couldn’t land a job. He finally found employment this season with the Roughriders, who lost Tyler Crapigna to season-ending surgery after training camp.

Lauther has been brilliant for Saskatchewan, making 29 of 32 field-goal attempts so far. He was 1-for-1 in the Roughriders’ 31-23 victory over the Bombers on Sunday, when Medlock was 3-for-4.

At no point in that contest — Lauther’s first against Medlock — did the Roughriders’ kicker feel he had to prove himself to his mentor.

“Before, I would have thought something like that, but that game, I didn’t want to get out of my comfort zone,” Lauther said. “I feel like I’m in a good place right now, so I took it as any other game.

“Yeah, it was Labour Day and it was a really cool experience and it was my first time playing against him, but realistically we’re not playing against each other. We’re both trying to do a job. He did his and I was trying to do mine.”

•••

A little soreness isn’t going to keep Dariusz Bladek out of the Labour Day rematch.

The Roughriders guard was caught up in a pile during the second quarter of the Classic and was bent over backwards in gruesome fashion after tailback Tre Mason crashed into the back of Bladek’s legs.

“As offensive linemen, it’s always in the back of your head that you might get rolled up on,” said Bladek, who didn’t miss any plays in the game. “I feel pretty good. Nothing serious came out of it. It’s just the common soreness you would get with getting pretzeled like that.”

It could have been much worse, though. Bladek was engaged with Winnipeg defensive lineman Brandin Bryant when Mason arrived — and Bryant actually helped Bladek out.

“He did me a favour by not collapsing down on me like he could have done,” Bladek said. “Once I felt the pile rolling up on me, I instantly knew to relax and that might have saved me and saved a couple of my muscles. I feel really good for how it looked.”

•••

Roughriders defensive end Charleston Hughes has recorded at least one sack in eight straight games and has a league-leading 13 sacks through Saskatchewan’s first 10 contests.

Chris Jones has coached Hughes before — Jones ran the Calgary Stampeders’ defence when Hughes broke into the league with that team in 2008 — so the Roughriders’ head coach-GM has seen Hughes do his thing for a lot of years.

“His feet don’t every stop; I think that’s probably his biggest attribute,” Jones said. “It’s not like he’s just blowing by folks. He continues to rush and continues to rush when others might stop on the play or maybe take a peek to see what’s going on rather than continuing to play. Then he’s the beneficiary of getting a statistical play.”

•••

Winnipeg-born receiver-returner Nic Demski played his first three seasons in the CFL with the Roughriders before signing with the Bombers as a free agent this off-season.

He has played in both the Labour Day Classic and the rematch before, but this is the first time that he’s experiencing the home-and-home series as a member of the Bombers.

“Those two games are always the highest-energy games,” Demski said earlier this week on a CFL conference call. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.

“It’s going to be fun to play in the hometown — on the good side now. I’m excited to see what’s going on.”