Swayze Waters’ off-season workouts are not so lonely anymore.
Now when he’s on the field kicking or working out, Waters is often joined by Taitum, his 18-month-old son. The exuberance of youth is a welcomed change for the Toronto Argonauts veteran kicker/punter.
“He’s at that fun age,” Waters said in a telephone interview. “He’s running around and laughing and is really coming into his own with his personality.
“In what can be a lonely position practising, he’s brought a lot of life to. It’s a joy to watch him run around and grow up and be a part of what God is allowing me to do in playing professional football. That’s been so much fun.”
Waters, 30, is preparing for his second stint in Toronto. He spent parts of four seasons with the club (2012-15) and was the CFL’s top special-teams player honour in 2014 before signing with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in February 2016.
He was released six months later but returned to Canada in 2017, splitting last season with the B.C. Lions and Edmonton Eskimos before rejoining the Argos as a free agent last February. Waters has made 112-of-142 field goals (78.9 per cent) over his CFL career — his best season being ‘14 when he hit on 47-of-52 attempts (90.4 per cent) — and sports a solid 46.9-yard punting average
He and his wife, Kendal, are happy to be returning to familiar surroundings.
“You always can step into it with a little bit of picking up with the momentum that you left off with even though that’s been a few years now,” Waters said. “There’s a sense of belonging and identity that comes with it.
“There’s still a handful of guys who were with that 2012 team when I first got to Toronto are still there and seeing those guys and teaming back up with them, yeah, there’s some familiarity that’s comforting and exciting. But this is a new team and so I still will have to get to know a lot of guys and find my place on the team.”
However, he’s coming back a changed man.
“It (fatherhood) has changed everything, really,” he said. ”I remember early on in my career, when I was 21 or 22, being in the locker room and guys having their kids in there after the game and always thinking that was so cool.
“But with the average career being what it is, I knew the odds I’d be that guy one day were low. I was able to do that last year, bring Taitum on the field with me and into the locker room, and those are the little things I’m excited about.”
This off-season, Waters converted the garage at his Jackson, Miss., residence into a gym so he could spent more time at home. That’s allowed Taitum to join his father during workouts.
“He’ll come out there and start doing squats or grab the hand roller and start rolling out his legs like I do,” Waters said. “It’s a reminder to me that he’s watching everything I do.
“I want to be a great example and I want him to succeed far beyond what I’m able to. Having him around and even the little things he’s picking up watching me play football is motivation to be a great father.”
Waters fondly remembers the impact his father, Joel, had on his life growing up.
“My dad taught me a lot,” he said. “Most of what he taught me he didn’t teach me with his words, he taught me from spending time with me and me watching him and seeing how he interacted with others, how he treated other people and worked.
“That’s helped shape me into who I am and that’s the same thing I hope to pass on even more to my son. I hope he’s an even better man than I am because of what I instill in him and what my dad instilled in me.”
In 2014, Waters changed his jersey from No. 30 to No. 34 to honour Tait Hendrix, Waters’ best friend and a former high school teammate who died in a motorcycle accident at age 27. When Taitum was born, the Waters tweaked the spelling of his first name in memory of Hendrix.
“My wife and I wanted to do something to remember and honour Tait but we didn’t know how we were going to do it,” Waters said. “We had Tatum down on our list and figured, ‘You know what? We could just change the spelling and do something a little bit different.’
“My name is pretty unique so we kind of keep that unique name thing going but it was mainly to honour a friend.”