Lions special teams bring international flavour, experience to the team
The BC Lions kicking team has a close relationship, even though they’re from vastly different parts of the world.
Lions punter Josh Bartel is from Australia, kicker Sergio Castillo Junior is from a small town on the U.S.-Mexican and long snapper Tanner Doll grew up in Beijing, China.
Growing up down under, Bartel played Aussie rules football which later in life helped his kicking game.
"There is a lot of running and kicking and jumping so, I suppose that’s where I found out that I had a good leg," said Bartel.
In 2012, Bartel and a few other Australians came over to Canada in pursuit of a job in the CFL.
Bartel landed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats but was pickup by the Lions this off-season. He’s played over 100 games in the CFL.
"It's a pretty cool place to live. I've lived in some nice parts of Canada and some interesting parts of Canada as well, very similar to Australia. The people here are friendly, they seem to like Australians," Bartel told CTV News.
Doll is a long snapper, a position that works with the team’s punter and kicker. His parents taught school in China and moved back to Canada, where he began his football career.
Back in 2016, Doll was part of the Ottawa Redblacks team that won the Grey Cup.
This is his first year with the Lions and he knows that each player has a specific role on the team.
"We are specialists on the special teams. We are the mercenaries of the football world and we have one job and we have to do it perfectly at all times so, it creates challenge, it creates pressure but it’s a fun job," said Doll.
"For us it's about 99 percent fun and 1 percent work because we don't play much we only play a couple of seconds throughout the whole game," said Castillo, referring to his field goal kicks.
Sergio Castillo Jr. grew up in small town near the Mexican border in Texas called La Joya.
"The people call it "Little Mexico," 99 percent are Mexicans, our official language wasn't English wasn't Spanish it was Spanglish," he said.
Castillo’s family is from Mexico, and sacrificed a lot of for his family to migrate and live in the U.S., something that motivates Castillo to give back to his community.
"I want to use this platform of football to inspire a lot of kids from back home in La Joya, that’s my people and tell them that anything can be done," Castillo proudly said.
The BC Lions celebrated diversity at their last home game against the Ottawa Redblacks, including having international players carrying their home flag as they ran out onto the field.
"I was super honoured to carry my flag. I'm fortunate that I had a go," said Bartel.
"I had a lot of pride as I came in with the Mexican flag. I came out wearing the lucha libre mask - it’s the wrestling mask," Castillo continued.
"Talk about a rush, I swung the flag and soon as I started running I told myself 'Serg just don't trip, don't trip;' it was definitely a once in a lifetime type of deal."
Doll summed up their relationship best:
"We are a very diverse group: we have one from down under, we have one from the other side of the wall and we have one from the great wall. We are from all around and it’s a great fun group."
The Lions next home game is Saturday when they face the Montreal Alouettes.