London, Ont. –
Lirim Hajrullahu has become the latest Canadian to play in the NFL.
The St. Catharines native who played for the Western Mustangs from 2009-2014 made his NFL regular season debut for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy was hesitant to allow Hajrullahu to kick a field goal, and went for it on fourth down multiple times in a 43-3 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
However, Hajrullahu was a perfect 5-5 on extra points and handled kickoff duties.
“It’s nice to see good things can happen to good people and that work pays off,” says Daryl Wheeler, his former kicking coach at Western and fellow coach at Coach Kick Elite Specialists.
Hajrullahu, born in Kosovo, was elevated from the practice squad to fill in for Greg Zuerlein, who went on the COVID-19 list during the week.
The 31-year-old, suited up for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argos after leaving Western has been waiting for this chance.
“It hasn’t been easy for him because he went to the Rams and he had a great camp and he’s bounced around a bit (on practice squads) but he stuck to it. He really trusted in his ability that it was going to work in Dallas. I always say he has a great leg, and great leg strength but it’s between the years it’s that mental toughness and he really exhibited that over the past couple years,” Wheeler says.
He says when you are not playing, and don’t know when the next game is going to be it’s tough to stay ready.
“He’s been training for the opportunity and he has a great inner circle with his family and friends have supported him through it and it’s nice to see because he’s been so close and he’s performed well in workouts,” Wheeler said. “We’re all excited.”