May 12, 2021. Houston, Texas.
Lirim Hajrullahu was named the Southern Division’s Week 1 Player of the Week for his outstanding kicking effort in the Generals victory over the Jousters last Saturday night. When speaking to Lirim about the game of football and his journey to where he is now, Lirim credits his teammates and the people that have helped him along the way. Lirim has had an unconventional path to TSL. It starts in Macedonia where Lirim and his family escaped to, during the Kosovo War of the late 1990s. In the Macedonian Refugee camps, Lirim remembers waking up early to get bread, water, and sardines with his uncle every morning.
He spoke on his father’s dream to bring his family to North America, and how lucky they were to have relatives already living in Canada: “Canada for us just seemed a better situation, my Dad had family, 5 uncles there. So if we went to Canada, we’d have support there in that sense. We had some great sponsors that helped us out, and get climatized there. But we also had our uncles, so anything we needed, they would come to pick us up, bring us over for dinner. Just give us that familiarity, cousins, and stuff like that. We still go in and out with them, and we got to put down some roots that we wouldn’t have had we not gone to Canada.”
As a child in Canada, Lirim dreamed of playing professional soccer, but due to the lack of soccer infrastructure in his town, he started to play basketball and volleyball. During his Freshman year at Governor Simcoe High School in St. Catherines, the Head Football Coach asked him throughout the year to try out for the football team, but Lirim declined every time. Come his Sophomore year the coach made a wager with Lirim, he said, “Come to practice, if you like it, stay. If you don’t, I’ll never bother you again.”
Lirim fell in love with the game within minutes of his first practice. His school was small, so he had played offensive line, and Linebacker alongside his kicking duties. When talking about his High School career, Lirim spoke about the relationships he built and people he met, and how many of them are still people in his life today. After High School Lirim was awarded a full scholarship to kick at Western Ontario University, he was then given the opportunity to play on Team Canada for the World American Football Cup in 2009 and 2011. When talking about his time with Team Canada, Lirim said: “It was a great experience, you’re a young kid and you felt like a pro. Kids were coming up asking for your autograph, you get to play in Canton. It really opened my eyes that I could probably play in the CFL and maybe even the NFL one day.”
After college, Hajrullahu signed as an Undrafted Free Agent for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers where he spent his first two years in the CFL. Before his third year, he accepted a contract a bit closer to home with the Toronto Argonauts. During his last year in Toronto, the Argonauts made it all the way to the Grey Cup, the CFL Championship, where Lirim put his name in the history books, kicking the game-winning field goal in the 105th Grey Cup, a game that many CFL fans consider one of the best games ever played. After Toronto, Hajrullahu signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats where he was named an Eastern Division All-Star. When looking back at his CFL career Lirim again credits his teammates and coaches for his success.
In 2020 Lirim signed with the Los Angeles Rams, then in December, he signed with the Carolina Panthers. When the season was over, he signed a futures contract with Carolina. Lirim spoke highly on his time in the NFL for the opportunities he was given. Lirim Signed with the Generals for the second time in his career this year, and after going 5 for 5 in FG attempts, and hitting a League Record 59 Yarder, Hajrullahu was named Southern Player of the Week.
When asked about him being named Player of the Week Lirim said “My success has really come from the guys around me, Billy (Caughell) is doing his best job, and (Ryan) Mallet has played for some of the biggest clubs in the NFL, so for them to put in the time means a lot to me. The guys that block, hold and snap for me, those are the guys that made me player of the week.”
Jose M. Rodriguez III
Photo by Aaron Meullion (@aa7ron)