October 18, 2023

Justin Medlock inducted into WFC Hall of Fame

Justin Medlock (9) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

So much of what Justin Medlock did during his days in the Canadian Football League – including four years with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers – was measured in black and white.

That’s simply the nature of placekicking, particularly in the pros, when a player is judged on whether an attempt went through the uprights or did not. Yay or nay, thumbs up or thumbs down. And for almost 87 percent of the time during his days in Winnipeg, Medlock’s kicks went through the uprights, earning the nickname ‘Money Medlock’ in these parts.

Medlock will be formally added to the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame tonight at the annual Blue Bombers Gala in support of amateur football at the RBC Convention Centre, and then saluted during Saturday’s game against the Edmonton Elks. He is the lone selection by the WFC Hall of Fame Committee for 2023, and it comes in his first year of eligibility.

“I certainly didn’t expect that and didn’t see that coming,” Medlock said. “So, when I got the call, it completely caught me off guard. It’s exciting and I’m obviously honoured.

“This is something I didn’t see coming after coming from Hamilton (signing with Winnipeg as a free agent in 2016). But to be able to extend my career and help be a part of the team that put together a lot of winning seasons and help turn that franchise around is something I’ll always remember and was grateful to be a part of it.

“You look back on your career at the opportunities you had – the failures and successes – and the way it ended for me in Winnipeg was amazing. I’m so thankful for my time there.”

What was often overlooked during Medlock’s career – beyond the black and white of makes and misses in the field goal department – was his daily attention to detail. He would spend hours working with the long-snapper and the holder, his kicking battery, focusing on every little detail.

“I get a little obsessive about whatever I do,” said Medlock. “That part of my game – trying to get better over the years – was something I cared about. I remember sitting down with Coach O’Shea after the 2016 playoffs. He said to me, ‘You really should take a look at what our whole team is doing so you can understand how to position us in the right way to give us the best opportunity to win and be successful and on punts and kickoffs.’ It was about our formations on punt and kickoff cover and how we forced returners into certain directions. Where you kick the ball and how you hit it is important.

“I knew I wasn’t the greatest punter, but that really helped, and I was very successful in my last few years, and it started to get teams thinking about where we were going to put the ball.

“Once I realized that – getting better on my side while understanding the team aspect and what they’re doing – it helped me improve my game. I put a lot of energy and effort into that, especially in my last few years, and I think we did a great job on special teams and were part of the puzzle that could help the team win.”

Medlock spent nine seasons in the CFL with Toronto, Edmonton, Hamilton, and Winnipeg and was already well established when he joined the Blue Bombers in 2016. In just four seasons, he moved into fourth place on the club’s all-time points list at 802, behind only Troy Westwood (2,748), Trevor Kennerd (1,840) and Milt Stegall (890). His 1,535 career points rank him 15th overall in league history.
During his Winnipeg days, he connected on 195 of 228 field goal attempts, with his 85.5 percentage the highest in team history. He set a CFL record with 60 field goals in 2016, an accomplishment that helped earn him the league’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player award. That year, he also tied both the club record for longest field goal make (58 yards, first set by Bernie Ruoff in 1975) and for field goals in a game (seven, first set by Kennerd in 1981 and matched by Medlock three times).

He also kicked 56 field goals in 2017, tied for the fourth-most in CFL history, and was named the club’s Most Outstanding Special Teams player in 2016, 2017 and 2018. An underrated punter, Medlock is also in the club’s Top 10 with an average of 43.8 yards and just six punt singles in 418 kicks.

“In a good way, he was anal,” said Blue Bombers Special Teams Coordinator Paul Boudreau. “He was so meticulous about every little detail, not only kicking, but I don’t think he ever got the credit he deserved for his punting. He took great pride as his career went on in improving his punting ability. He wasn’t going to hit the 60-yard punts, but he was really good directionally and helping the coverage out by doing that.

“The other strength of his is on a miss I don’t think he ever let that affect him. He was able to wipe the slate clean and move on to the next one. In that way, he kind of lived in his own little world during a game. We’ve been texting back and forth over the last few months. I look forward to seeing him.”

Medlock was especially deadly in the playoffs – often in the worst conditions, too – by connecting on 90 percent of his tries (27 of 30) in seven games over four years with the Blue Bombers. That included tying a Grey Cup record with six field goals in the 2019 Grey Cup – a game that turned out to be the last in his career.

“I look back to 2019 and after we won the Grey Cup, I remember sitting in my room after getting back from the stadium and thinking about how it was such a cool experience,” said Medlock, who is now based in California and works for Newfront, a commercial insurance agency. “I felt like at that moment I realized I had accomplished everything I could accomplish in the sport of football. There wasn’t a thought that I needed to do something else to put a bow on my career, but I wanted to finish up my contract in 2020. And then COVID happened. I knew right away there was not going to be a season and we weren’t going to be able to get across the border.

“As soon as that happened and you have a family, you have to start thinking about what’s next. It was time, especially after I had already been thinking about it.”

Along with all the individual accomplishments and accolades, Medlock is most proud of being part of the group that helped turn the franchise around and ending a 28-year Grey Cup drought in 2019.

“When I first went to Winnipeg the team wasn’t that good,” he said. “But I believed in what they were trying to build. It turned into a great decision. I was part of the free agent crew that signed in Winnipeg, but that group and the group that was there really helped get Winnipeg up and running. It started with getting competitive, then into the playoffs and then winning Grey Cups to the point now where it’s the franchise where everyone wants to go.

“I’m super thankful for the time I was there. Being around Coach O’Shea and Coach Boudreau was so important because they allowed me to be the player that I could be. I learned a lot being around them. They’re players’ coaches and that’s why they’re doing so well with Winnipeg. That’s why people want to be there – to be around coaches like that because they believe in it.

“They let the players play freely and I can see it in a lot of the players they have now.”