Hollywood added one of Western’s brightest stars this week as former Mustangs kicker Lirim Hajrullahu inked a three-year deal with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.
“I’m looking forward to continuing this journey and being able to share some amazing experiences,” the soon-to-be Wall of Champions inductee said. “For me, this is about the coaches, family members and so many other people who have played a key support role for me. Getting to this point without the help of others just wouldn’t have been possible.
“When I shine, everyone else shines. I just want to make everyone proud.”
Hajrullahu, BA’13 (Sport Management), MA’15 (Sport Management), becomes only the seventh Mustang to sign in the NFL. He joins John Priestner; Tyrone Williams, BA’95 (Economics); Tim Tindale, BA’96 (Physical Education); Vaughn Martin, BA’10; Tyler Varga; and Daryl Waud, BA’16 (Geography).
From 2009-13, Hajrullahu amassed 422 career points, making him the third all-time scorer in USports history – behind another Mustangs kicking legend Marc Liegghio (442 points).
“Everything has happened so quickly over this past month,” Hajrullahu said.
In March, he took part in the NFL’s kicking combine in Arizona. Arrived home in Ontario before flights were shut down during the then-growing COVID-19 pandemic, he inked his deal with the Rams on Monday.
“I’ve been going to the combine for the last few years to keep sharp. As one of the veteran guys there, that opened up a few eyes with some teams and allowed me this chance to sign with LA,” he said.
Uncertainty still surrounds the start of NFL training camps. With a moving target, Hajrullahu plans to continue training and be ready when called upon.
Since graduating from Western, Hajrullahu played six seasons in the CFL, this past season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He also played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts.
The soon-to-be 30-year-old was one of the top kickers during his time in the CFL, with an 83.3 field goal percentage across his six seasons. By comparison, in the 2019 NFL season, the average field goal percentage was 81.6.
Known for his strong leg, Hajrullahu was a solid 19-for-23 from 50 yards out (longest from 56 yards), making his last 10 in a row from that distance, dating back to 2018.
He will compete for the LA job with former XFL kicker Austin MacGinnis, who the Rams also signed following veteran kicker Greg Zuerlein’s departure to the Dallas Cowboys after eight seasons.
“When I was at Western, I was always told things like this are possible – playing in the CFL or even further. Seeing teammates every year being drafted, that was my goal,” Hajrullahu said.
In 2010, Hajrullahu set his foundation as a Western great with a last-second field goal to give the Mustangs a 26-25 win over the Ottawa Gee Gees to give Western their 29th Yates Cup victory. He continued that with a clutch 32-yard game-winning field goal with less than a minute left gave the Toronto Argonauts a 27-24 Grey Cup win in 2017.
This past season, Hajrullahu converted 85.5 per cent of his field goals and 92.8 per cent of extra points. Tied for first in field goals made (47) and third in scoring (162 points) he earned his second all-star nod this past season, having done so with Toronto in 2016.
Hajrullahu’s No. 70 jersey is not available with the Rams. In the NFL, numbers 60-79 are designated for offensive guards and tackles. He’ll get to choose something a bit more modest, between 1-19.
“As long as I got a number, that’s all that really matters,” Hajrullahu smiled. “I’ll be happy what ever it is.”
Ryan Robinson contributed to this report.