THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO -- Eric Wilbur was managing a bar in Florida on Friday afternoon. On Saturday, he was kicking for the Toronto Argonauts.
A neck sprain to regular kicker Swayze Waters had the CFL team reaching for the phone. Wilbur was working at the Jesse Black Saloon in Casselberry, Fla., when he noticed his phone was on silent and he had four missed calls -- one from his agent and three from an unknown number.
"It was Mr. Barker giving me a call," he said, referring to Argos general manager Jim Barker.
He spoke to his bar owner, headed to his nearby home to pack a bag and say goodbye to his wife and then headed to the Orlando airport.
"Crazy day today!" he tweeted.
Upon arrival in Toronto, he got to kick a few balls. Then it was "we'll see you tomorrow at the game."
The 27-year-old Florida native made three of five field goals, connecting from 16, 25 and 28 yards. He missed from 32 and 37. He also averaged 48.5 yards a punt and 63.8 yards on kickoffs.
Wilbur savoured his return to action but said he felt a little rusty.
"I missed a couple that I wish I could have back. Kickoffs weren't spectacular but we walked away with the win, which is the big picture," he said.
The misses didn't come into play as the Argos defeated Hamilton 45-31 in a game that wasn't as close as the score suggests.
Toronto coach Scott Milanovich didn't meet Wilbur until before the game Saturday.
"Considering he didn't meet any of his teammates until today, I think he did a fairly admirable job," he said.
Waters is expected to be healthy for next Saturday's game in B.C. so Wilbur may be headed back to the real world.
But at least he got to show his skills.
"Really you never know when your opportunity's going to come," said Argo long snapper Chad Rempel. "And he came in and he helped us out a lot. And we came out with the win."
The six-foot-two 200-pound Wilbur has made the rounds in pro football after a four-year career at the University of Florida that saw him become the first Gator to be named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award as the top punter in NCAA ranks.
Wilbur dressed in 13 games for the Tiger-Cats in 2010, with 85 punts (43.0 average), and 25 kickoffs (57.5 average) to his name.
He signed with Edmonton as a free agent in February but was traded to Winnipeg the same month. The Bombers cut him during pre-season, after a game against Hamilton.
"I figure I'll just keep making my rounds," he joked. "I love it up here."
Wilbur has also spent time with the NFL's Houston Texans, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets. Not to mention the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.
Having boots, will travel, makes for an itinerant life.
"It definitely is and it's stressful to say the least," said Wilbur. "Like today. You're ready if you get a phone call, but you're continuing your life outside of football."
That means working at the bar, training when he can and giving kicking lessons. And using Twitter to drum up bar business.
"Cornhole & live dj tonight at Jesse Black Saloon in Casselberry! happy hour prices all night for everyone who signs up for cornhole tourney." he tweeted late last month, referring to a bean bag toss tournament.
After the game Saturday, Wilbur had a smile on his face and an ice pack on his right shoulder as a result of a tackle attempt.
"I haven't hit anyone one in quite a while," he said with a laugh.
If his Argo experience is just one game, Wilbur will leave with some good memories.
"I had a blast," he said. "I love this game, I love the CFL. It's a great organization here but I haven't seen a bad organization in the CFL."
|Friday 28 August|
|@ Hamilton||Mon Sep 7||1:00 pm EDT|
|vs Hamilton||Fri Sep 11||7:30 pm EDT|
|@ Ottawa||Sat Sep 26||7:00 pm EDT|
|vs Ottawa||Tue Oct 6||7:30 pm EDT|
|Full Schedule >|