CFLs pick Huerta in dispersal draft

April 19, 1995|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Carlos Huerta, a place-kicker who wanted off the Las Vegas Posse and out of the Canadian Football League, found a situation he could live with yesterday.

When Huerta became the first choice of the Baltimore Football Club in a five-round dispersal draft of Posse players, it ended a long ordeal and triggered a broad range of reactions.

At Memorial Stadium, team owner Jim Speros was so giddy he proclaimed: "We're going back to the Grey Cup."

In Miami, Huerta, who "retired" two weeks ago, was ready to resume his career, even if it meant staying in the CFL.

And in Cleveland, the agent for incumbent Baltimore place-kicker Donald Igwebuike began making alternative plans for his client.

"I've been telling [CFL] teams not to draft me unless they were willing to change my contract," said Huerta, who, at $25,000, was the lowest-paid kicker in the league last season.

"If I had to stay in the CFL, the team I wanted to go to was Baltimore. As far as the CFL, I don't think the situation could've turned out better."

Baltimore coach Don Matthews made no Grey Cup proclamations, but, obviously pleased, said the team would renegotiate Huerta's contract.

"He was the best kicker in the league last year," Matthews said. "Donald has had some immigration problems and we're not sure he'll be allowed back [into the United States]. Kicking became a big question mark in our minds, and so we took the best kicker in the league to address that.

"Until we get Huerta signed, Donald is still our kicker. But he's still out of the country."

The arrival of Huerta in Baltimore almost certainly will signal the end of Igwebuike's second term as local hero. Igwebuike, who made $30,000 last year, has been unable to get a visa to leave his native Nigeria to return to Baltimore. The team has been attempting unsuccessfully to get the necessary paperwork done since he went home last winter.

"I didn't want him to leave in the first place," said Igwebuike's agent, Eric Eisenberg. "Now Donald is saying, 'I wish I didn't leave, too.' The biggest question is whether he can come back in time for camp."

Eisenberg said he may try to get Igwebuike a tryout with the expansion Memphis Mad Dogs if Huerta takes over in Baltimore. But with camps due to open next month, timing will be critical.

Igwebuike made 43 of 53 field goal attempts (81.1 percent) last season for Baltimore and scored 184 points. He was cut at midseason after a missed field goal resulted in a loss, then re-signed two weeks later.

Huerta kicked 38 of 46 tries (82.6) and scored 157 points for the Posse, which finished last in the Western Division at 5-13. He hit eight of 11 kicks from 50 yards or longer, and was runner-up to Baltimore's Matt Goodwin for CFL Rookie of the Year honors. At one point, Huerta kicked 18 consecutive field goals.

When the Posse became insolvent and was shopped across the country, Huerta grew disenchanted with the process and formally retired with a letter to the league office.

"It was my objection to what was going on," he said. "I did not want to be a selling point for the team."

What he wanted was to join the NFL. Because his Posse contract had an option year left, he was not free to go. Baltimore now looks like a good alternative, he said.

"I realize Donald is the fan favorite," Huerta said, "but I plan to help Baltimore win the Grey Cup if I'm in the CFL. I'm excited about Baltimore."

Baltimore also took cornerback/kick returner James Bullock (Arizona) in the second round and linebacker Greg Tucker (Northern Colorado) in the third.

Bullock was eighth in the CFL with 572 kickoff return yards, and returned two kicks for touchdowns, a threat the team didn't have last season.

Tucker will compete at the linebacker spot held by Alvin Walton and Malcolm Goodwin last year. The position was weakened with the news that veteran Ken Benson will require yet a third operation on his broken ankle and will miss camp.

In other moves, Matthews said Baltimore has traded defensive back Stan Petry to Saskatchewan for future considerations, and signed Willie Latta, an explosive, big-play running back at Fayetteville State.

NOTE: Six members of the Baltimore Football Club, including cornerback Irv Smith and defensive tackle Scott Miller, will visit Colt Corral No. 534 at the House of Corrections in Jessup tomorrow night. The Jessup corral has 32 members.

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