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36-year-old rookie ready to make CFL debut for Edmonton Elks

The Edmonton Elks' new kicker is older than your average rookie, but the 36-year-old soccer pro said he's ready to tackle the next leg of his journey.

Hailing from Southampton, England, Dean Faithfull will make his CFL debut on Sunday to become the first international player to kick field goals for Edmonton.

Faithfull comes from a soccer background and has played for clubs in 9 different countries, including Belgium, Costa Rica, the U.S., Australia and Trinidad and Tobago.

"When I look back at when I was sort of 10, I could always kick a ball," Faithfull said. "I took every free kick, every goal kick. It was me doing everything, so I figure that helped me down the road."

While soccer was his first love, Faithfull said he's always been one to take on new opportunities when they arise.

"It was an old soccer coach that said, 'Hey, you'd be good at kicking.' And I was like, 'Sure,'" he added. "I could always strike a ball well. And it is a little different, but the principles are similar.

"If you can strike a soccer ball well, you can learn to strike a football well."

Fellow rookie Jake Julian, from Ontario, said he was excited to learn he'd be playing alongside Faithfull.

"I knew he was a great dude, mature guy, just really excited to work with someone like that," Julian said.

They met four years ago while training in Alabama, and Julian said Faithfull made a lasting impression – and not just because he had brought along a copy of Football for Dummies.

"You could have said he's been kicking since freshman year of high school and I'd believe you," Julian said.

Faithfull said he's been training seriously as a kicker for the past two years, and his effort paid off when he was drafted by the Elks in the first round of this year's CFL Global Draft.

"Faithfull, he's a guy that he's got a tremendous, tremendous leg," said Elks' head coach Chris Jones, adding he's seen the rookie kick 10 50-yard field goals in a row.

"And then he kicked three 55-yarders and they weren't just barely making it across the line. They were three-quarters of the way up the upright."

For now, Jones plans to keep Faithfull closer to the goal posts until he gets a feel for the field.

"We're going to probably keep him between 45 and 40, that's about the extent of what we're going to do," Jones said. "But if we need it I know he's got the legs. It's just a matter of him doing it."

Faithfull said it means a lot to him to have Jones' support. He always knew he had talent, he just needed an opportunity to prove it.

"I've always had some strong self belief, just really grateful to be here obviously at 36 and I'm just going to make the most of it," he added.

In addition to his new venture in the CFL, Faithfull recently started his own coaching business, Gameday Kicking, where he hopes to help kids work toward a career in sports.

"I kind of fell into it accidently, but if I could set something up and train high school kids and give them an opportunity to earn scholarships and then push onto the next level, then that would be great," he said.

Plus, it's a good way to stay connected to football after he's finished on the field, he added.

"When I'm done playing, I'll keep coaching and stay in the game."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Marek Tkach and Dave Mitchell Top Stories

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