Go to the profile page for Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicking hopeful Ali Mourtada and you’ll find nothing.
Not a single mention of a team or league since college.
Nothing could be further from the truth, because Mourtada, 31, has made plenty of stops in his nomadic pursuit of his dream job of kicking field goals for a living.
He’s just never got more than a toehold anywhere.
“A grind and a roller-coaster,” Mourtada said after emerging from quarantine to take part in his first CFL practice on Tuesday. “Over time it’s a dream and then it’s just doing the work. That’s kind of where the dream lives.”
Mourtada’s last stop was with the Indoor Football League’s Massachusetts Pirates, his second go-round with the team.
He left and they went on to win the championship, so he’s glad to have played a small role in that.
Actually, Mourtada is thankful he can even pursue his dream in a free and democratic country.
It’s the kind of choice his father envisioned when he packed up the family and fled war-torn Sierra Leone when Mourtada was just four years old.
“He picked us up as a family, and thankfully, praise God, we were able to get over here safely,” Mourtada said. “He always preached to me that it’s an opportunity that I’ll have in the States that wouldn’t really present itself in Sierra Leone. So I was thankful for that.”
The family relocated in Massachusetts, taking up residence in Foxboro.
A multi-sport star in high school, Mourtada attended Pace University in New York, graduating in 2011.
Witnessing the police shooting of a college teammate, in 2010,
Dedicating himself to being a professional kicker, he’s attended countless kicking camps, combines and free-agent tryout camps, leading to one NFL tryout, with Cleveland, in 2017.
Several Indoor and Arena League cups of coffee later, he appeared to give up the dream to concentrate on his day job as a personal trainer.
But the Indoor League’s Pirates called him back this summer, and on their way to a title a funny thing was happening to the defending Grey Cup champion Blue Bombers.
Three things, actually: veteran Justin Medlock decided to hang up his cleats, Tyler Crapigna hurt his leg and rookie Marc Liegghio struggled to make kicks, from any length.
A phone call or two later, Mourtada landed in Winnipeg, recommended by one of the many kicking coaches he’s worked with over the years.
“Basically they just take his word and bring me in on trust,” Mourtada said. “I can just do my part and make sure it was the right decision. It’s a great opportunity. The team has welcomed me in as family. But from there, it’s day-by-day. If any opportunity presents itself, just be ready to go.”
At the end of Tuesday’s practice, head coach Mike O’Shea was shagging his kicks in the end zone, getting his first look at the new leg in town.
“You like his perseverance,” O’Shea said, citing former CFL kickers who also had to face rejection a few times. “Paul Osbaldiston got cut a few times before he ever kicked his first. Mike Vanderjagt, same thing. It takes a while to get your opportunity. Some guys longer than others.
“And he’s managed to stay in it long enough to get another one, which is admirable. He kicked today and it looked good.”
Alternating kicks with Mourtada was Liegghio, coming off yet another forgettable game that saw him miss two converts and the only field goal he tried.
The Bomber draft pick has identical statistical lines on field goals and conversions: an unflattering, 5-for-8.
It hasn’t cost his team a game – yet.
“If you look historically at how he’s been through CIS (Canadian university football), he’s been absolutely phenomenal,” O’Shea said. “I imagine he’ll get back to that. I really do.”
It was a deep reach into the free-agent bin to find Mourtada.
“There really (aren’t) as many as you may think,” O’Shea said. “There’s lots of guys with ‘K’ beside their name. It’s whether or not you think they can do it. He was a guy that came with high praise from people that know what we’re looking for.”
It’s a simple ask, one Mourtada knows well by now.
“Come in, make field goals, hit solid kickoffs,” he said. “That’s really about it.”
A simple dream, but a dream, nonetheless.
“I absolutely love it. And if I was the last person on earth, I’d still be kicking.”