They’re competing for the same job, but that hasn’t stopped veteran kicker Boris Bede from taking youngster Toshiki Sato under his wing at the Toronto Argonauts’ training camp.
The six-foot-four, 225-pound Bede is entering his sixth CFL season, but first with Toronto after being acquired from the Montreal Alouettes for Canadian kicker Tyler Crapigna on Feb. 13, 2020. The Argos selected the Japanese-born Sato in the second round, No. 16 overall, in the 2021 CFL global draft.
“I’ve been around for the past five, six years, so I know the game,” Bede said. “I know how it’s being played. I know what they’re expecting of me.
“Sato is a very good guy, technical guy. He is a hard worker, he enjoys being on the field. He works well.”
Bede said he wasn’t necessarily afforded the same treatment during his first CFL training camp with Montreal.
“When I came in as a rookie . . . the welcome wasn’t the warmest,” he said. “I won’t lie to you, it was tough a little bit.
“I always told myself if the competition is going to be the competition it has to be, then it has to be clean. I told (Sato), ‘I’m going to put all of the keys in your hand and we’re going to compete.’
“There’s no need to be mean about the guy and be a bad person. That’s not healthy and that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m teaching him and showing him the way the game is supposed to be played because at the end of the day we want to be the best at what we’re doing.”
Bede is aware that he’s mentoring a player who could ultimately beat him out for the job.
“I’m just out there to try and give wisdom and teach him how Canadian football is supposed to be played,” he said. “So we compete at the point where whoever comes out the best gets the job.”
Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie has noticed his veteran kicker taking a mentorship role in camp.
“Boris is helping him (Sato) out, almost like a big brother,” Dinwiddie said. “They’re working well together.”
Bede has a leg up on the competition in terms of pro experience. The 31-year-old spent his first five CFL seasons with Montreal (2015-19), where he handled all three kicking positions (field goals, punts and kickoffs).
Bede remains the league’s all-time kickoff leader (69.3 yards). He has also made 141-of-171 field goals (82.5 per cent) and sports a career punting average of 44.2 yards.
Dinwiddie said that versatility was a big reason why the club re-signed Bede to a contract extension last December. Bede was scheduled to become a free agent in February, 2021.
“When we made the commitment with Boris we did that knowing he could do all three (kicking jobs) and we’re planning on him doing all three,” Dinwiddie said. “That’s going to help us out, we’re not going to have to dress two kickers.
“It’s a very nice situation for us.”
Bede split his college career between Tiffin University (2008-10) and Laval (2011-14). He helped the Rouge et Or reach the Vanier Cup three times, winning twice.
Bede, a native of Toulon, France, would count as an import this season with Toronto. Bede said while he’s becoming more acclimated with his new team, he admits to having had some nerves Saturday when the Argos opened camp at the University of Guelph.
“For two years I haven’t been in a competitive environment,” he said. “So obviously you’re getting back into those habits, getting those visual points where you’re going to be aiming for the ball . . . rhythm, synchronization with your holder and the long-snapper on punts.
“You’re just working on those little details, just really making it that much better every day and try to get better all the time.”
The CFL didn’t play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league will open a 14-game season Aug. 5, with Toronto starting the campaign Aug. 7 visiting the Calgary Stampeders.
The kicker is put one-third of the equation on field-goal attempts but often shoulders the brunt of blame for any errant kicks. But thus far, Bede said the transition to a new snapper (veteran Jake Reinhart) and holder (quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson) has been seamless.
“It changes a little bit but football stays (as) football wherever you’re going,” he said. “I’m very happy.
“I’m surrounded by some good coaches and players and we’re back on the field so I’m very excited.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2021.