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Jay Paris: Artful Carney still getting his kicks through coaching

It was a sight for Irish eyes or any other kind.

Imagine the Chargers’ Junior Seau minus his dark pompadour.

“Seeing a Samoan with blonde hair was really the pinnacle,’’ former Chargers kicker John Carney said. “That was a lot of fun.’’

Chatting with Carney is always a hoot. The Olivenhain resident has as many stories as he does points — no Charger scored more — and one can spend hours sifting through them.

Like the memorable Seau tale.

I was among those giggling years ago when Seau entered the locker room to prove blondes really did have more fun.

Seau and Carney never let a USC-Notre Dame game, their respective alma maters, pass without a wager. Once the loser had to wear the other’s hairstyle and when the Fighting Irish prevailed, Seau became a Trojan horse of a different color.

“He kept it for exactly 24 hours,’’ Carney said. “But I have to give him credit.’’

Carney deserves a curtain call, too.

The Chargers great is heading into the Hall of Fame this weekend. That it’s not the Chargers’ HOF is the stunning part, with the New Orleans Saints toasting Carney.

“It was really a surprise when they called me,’’ Carney said. “I never considered or expected that was a possibility. I really enjoyed my time there but never thought that was in the cards. They must have gotten down to the end of the list.’’

The modest Carney, 50, remains just that.

When serving as the Chargers’ Mr. Reliable, Carney never failed to mention teammates helping with his spot-on kicks. He sprinkled credit around like sugar, making sure everyone tasted the sweet glory.

It was Carney’s attitude and accurate right leg, which also endeared him to the Saints. He kicked there for eight years and when he was replaced during the Saints’ Super Bowl season, they couldn’t say good-bye.

Instead they plopped Carney on the coaching staff.

Carney, the coach, was as artful as Carney, the kicker.

Which is why Carney stays on the run.

“This retirement stuff is busy,’’ he said.

He operates the Carney kicking camps, aiding anyone from preps to NFL wanna-bes. A dozen NFL kickers have absorbed Carney’s teaching, with the Chargers’ Nick Novak among them.

That lessened the sting of Carney recently losing his Chargers record. Novak broke Carney’s mark of 29-straight field goals.

“I feel honored just knowing the great tradition of Chargers kickers,’’ Novak said.

Carney returned the love.

“I’m proud of him,’’ Carney said. “He has a strong work ethic and is very disciplined in his craft. I’m pleased he is having this success and he should have it for many years to come.’’

But a Carney chat has to include the past. Was it really two decades ago he was booting the Chargers to their only Super Bowl?

“It doesn’t seem like 20 years,’’ Carney said. “But it was a special season for everybody.’’

Many pressure kicks were delivered by Carney, including his 33-yarder with two seconds left to beat the Raiders, 26-24. That vaulted the Chargers to 4-0, their best start since 1980.

Carney, of course, was calm. Long-snapper David Binn and offensive lineman Joe Cocozzo were wrecks.

“Binn was a nervous rookie,’’ Carney confirmed. “And Joe had a holding penalty and thought we weren’t going to get any points.’’

That explains Cocozzo going all dog pile.

“He was jumping on everybody,’’ Carney said.

Carney mentioned general manager Bobby Beathard’s roster building, coach Bobby Ross’ winning blueprint, the determination of quarterback Stan Humphries, the toughness of tackle Stan Brock, the offensive skill players and of course, the defense led by Seau.

“We had great leadership from the players and the coaches,’’ Carney said. “Everybody was on the same page and in it together.’’

Now specialists travel to Carney, hoping to pick the brain of the NFL’s fifth all-time leading scorer and a two-time Pro Bowler.

Carney also shares tips at and through his new DVD, “Kick, Punt and Train like a Pro.’’

“I want to shorten the learning curve for them,’’ he said. “Help them avoid some of the pitfalls and potholes I went through.’’

There goes Carney being humble again, but his perseverance matched his leg strength. Carney was cut three times before making it and now he’s found a home in the Saints Hall of Fame.

Who Dat?

We once said that about Seau, with his sun-streaked hair.

But Carney is no stranger to the Saints. Or those marching to his Carlsbad complex, eager to learn from the master.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports. He talks Chargers football on XTRA 1360 AM on Monday mornings at 8.