Sean Whyte is coming home.
The veteran Canadian Football League kicker – and the 14th highest-scorer in the league’s long history – agreed to a contract this week with the BC Lions. The free-agent had spent the last six seasons with the Edmonton Elks organization, winning a Grey Cup with the club in 2015.
By signing with his hometown team – the 36-year-old is a Semiahmoo Secondary graduate and former member of the South Surrey Rams junior football team – returns to the team that first gave him an opportunity to play professionally.
Whyte originally signed with the Lions back in 2007 as a “territorial exemption” player, and he spent most of two seasons on the practice roster behind Canadian Football hall-of-famer Paul McCallum before being traded to the Montreal Alouettes in 2011, where he played for four seasons.
“It’s an honour to have my career come full circle with the Lions,” Whyte said. “With this great team being put together by (co-general manager) Neil McEvoy and coach Rick (Campbell), that makes it even more exciting to hit the ground running in 2022.”
In 168 regular season CFL games, Whyte has made good on 382 of 441 field goal attempts (87 per cent) and punted 715 times for 25,384 yards, for a 42.6-yard average.
In 2019, he was Edmonton’s nominee for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Special Teams player.
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Whyte told Peace Arch News Wednesday that considering all the turnover within the Elks organization – the team has new leaders at many front office and coaching positions – he “knew there would be big changes to the roster.”
“With not much communication with Edmonton, I saw an opportunity to come home… B.C. showed great interest so I told my agent to make a deal when free agency hits, and he did. I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
Whyte’s signing was one in a bevy of new additions the Lions have made since free agency opened. This week, McEvoy – who, like Whyte, is a Semiahmoo Peninsula resident – and Campbell, who also serves as co-GM, signed American defensive backs Loucheiz Purifoy and Delvin Breaux; American defensive lineman Steven Richardson; Canadian quarterback Michael O’Connor and Canadian defensive linemen David Menard and Mathieu Betts.
“We’ve added a bunch of good pieces to our football team,” McEvoy said.
Whyte – who can frequently be found working on his game on Semiahmoo Secondary fields during the off-season – found it hard to contain his excitement for his return to the Lions, posting on Instagram that he “can’t explain how excited I am.”
In response to a BC Lions-posted video of him signing his new contract, he replied, “Family and friends, it’s time to stock up on tickets!!!!!! I’m back baby!!!”
— BC LIONS (@BCLions) February 8, 2022
Whyte, who wore No. 10 during his brief first stint with the Lions but wore No. 6 in both Montreal and Edmonton, said he’ll return to his original number with his new team, in honour of another famous Vancouver No. 10 – Canucks legend Pavel Bure.
Whyte has had a long and interesting CFL career since leaving the Vancouver-based Lions more than a decade ago. He became one of the league’s most reliable kickers during his time in Montreal, but eventually fell out of favour with team brass, and was relegated to backup duty before being released.
After his release from the Alouettes, he very nearly retired from football – he told Peace Arch News in 2015 that his final season in Montreal had been “mentally draining” while adding it “kind of took the love of the game away from me a little bit.”
He said he was about to start a new non-football job in the Lower Mainland the day that Edmonton came calling. Heading to the Alberta capital “completely rejuvenated me” he told PAN prior to the team’s Grey Cup win.
This week, he also had kind things to say about the Elks organization and the city he is leaving.
“A huge thank you to the City Of Champions, the fans and the Elks. Edmonton is a 2nd home to me and I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime. It was an honour to be a part of the (city’s) rich sports history.”