On August 18th, the Dallas Cowboys signed kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, a name that should be familiar to many CFL fans.
Hajrullahu spent 6 seasons in the CFL, split between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2014-2015), Toronto Argonauts (2016-2017), and Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2018-2019). Over that span, he made 239 field goals on 287 attempts (83.3% accuracy). He also punted 651 times, averaging 44.1 yards per punt. Hajrullahu was a two-time CFL East All-Star, and won the 105th Grey Cup with Toronto in 2017.
Hajrullahu’s story is not an average one. He was born in the small European country of Kosovo, and moved to Canada with his family in 1999. Hajrullahu claims he used sports during his childhood as a way to meet new people. After being told by a friend he should try out for his high school football team, Hajrullahu fell in love with the game. He went on to play for the University of Western Ontario, and signed with the Blue Bombers as an undrafted free agent.
Following 6 successful years in the CFL, Hajrullahu made his first attempt at joining the NFL in 2020. He was signed by the Los Angeles Rams, but was cut at the end of the preseason. Hajrullahu lost the kicking competition to Sam Sloman, a rookie that the Rams had taken in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft. He proved to be ineffective, though, and was replaced halfway through the season. Instead of bringing back Hajrullahu, the Rams signed ex-Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay.
On December 9th, 2020, Hajrullahu joined the Carolina Panthers practice squad. The Panthers have an eye for talent that comes from alternative leagues, as they had signed XFL quarterback PJ Walker a few months earlier. Unfortunately, Hajrullahu had a problem with his work permit, and was released on December 15th. Despite agreeing to a reserve/future deal with the Panthers in January 2021 (once the problems with his work permit were fixed), he was unable to stay on their roster.
Hajrullahu was then a member of the The Spring League (TSL) in May, known for helping players get back into the NFL and/or CFL. In his debut with the TSL Generals, he made all 5 of his field goal attempts and set a league record for longest field goal.
Now, Hajrullahu has made his return to the NFL. The Cowboys are currently being featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks, and CFL fans should follow along to see if his story will be included in one of the upcoming episodes. Hajrullahu will compete for the kicking job with Greg Zuerlein, an NFL veteran who signed with Dallas in 2020. He could also compete for the punting job with Hunter Niswander, who was a member of the XFL’s DC Defenders. Even though Hajrullahu may not have the advantage, he’s a good player to have as injury insurance. If he impresses the coaches enough, don’t be surprised to see him on the practice squad.