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Leg injury has shaped Lions kicker Castillo personally, professionally

KAMLOOPS — Twenty months ago, Sergio Castillo was at the peak of his pro career when he tore the anterior-cruciate ligament in his kicking leg.

It’s a crummy way to gain perspective but Castillo says that injury has shaped him personally and professionally.

“Oct. 6, 2017,” he said Monday at the Lions’ training camp. “It was against Winnipeg (Castillo was playing with Hamilton). Things were going very well. I don’t forget that date.

“I’ve never taken this for granted, but I’m more appreciative than ever for the opportunity.”

Castillo arrived in Kamloops a week ago as the potential answer to a massive hole in the Lions’ lineup. With Ty Long, last year’s Leos most outstanding player, headed for a tryout with the Los Angeles Chargers, Castillo was brought in to compete with Canadian veteran Anthony Alix for the kicking job.

At the time of his 2017 injury, Castillo had made 29-of-34 field goals for Hamilton while averaging 45.1 yards a punt. He had a brief tryout with Ottawa last season and was sitting at home in Amarillo, Tex., where he runs a gym with his girlfriend when the Lions came calling.

“There were talks, but it was basically a waiting process,” he said. “I think it was perfect timing. I worked on my craft just about every day because when you get the call, you’ve got to be ready.”

• With the Lions’ final pre-season game now just three days away, there remains at least half-a-dozen positions up for grabs. One of the more interesting battles is over the right tackle spot where third-year Lion David Foucault is competing with Brett Boyko.

Foucault, like Boyko, spent three years on NFL practice squads. Unlike Boyko, he’s seen live action over the last two years with the Lions.

“He’s a smart kid and he’s still young (30),” said Lions offensive line coach Bryan Chiu. “The bigger picture is he’s only a couple of years removed from college and you can see he’s caught up now. I’m expecting big things from David.”

• One of the favourite pastimes around the Lions’ training camp is guessing the weight of running backs coach Nik Lewis. As a player with the Montreal Alouettes last year, the 5-foot-10 Lewis was generously listed at 240 pounds.

Be advised he appears to have added weight although now one knows the real number. Head coach DeVone Claybrooks has guessed 290 pounds. One of the other coaches estimated 280 pounds. But Lewis refuses to weigh himself, even though he walks by a scale every day according to one Lions snitch.

• According to CFL rules, Tuesday will mark the final day the Lions practise in pads this training camp. Teams are limited to 10 training-camp sessions in pads — that’s helmet and shoulder pads but not full gear. There are no padded practice sessions during the regular season.

“It’s not easy,” Claybrooks answered when asked it it’s difficult to assess players without full contact. “You’re just trying to install good work habits and run drills that teach proper techniques.”