The punting place on the roster has always been a specialist position, but it looks as though it’s getting even harder to become one. Coaches look for distance from their kickers, but they also expect a little more from their athletes. It seems like Australian punters are the flavor of the month, and here’s how they are taking over the NFL.
Their own skills
Many of the Australian punters looking to enter the NFL all have experience of playing high-level sports in their own countries. Australian rules football is kind of similar to the American variation of the sport but played with less padding. The players grow up learning to kick field goals from 60 yards, and that distance is something most NFL coaches require of their punters.
Having grown up playing Australian rules however, the players are more than just kickers and can make adjustments in the seconds leading up to a punt. The had to learn how to kick with people charging at them so know how to make a little space if required.
One Australian man tried to break into the American football market years ago, but fate did not lead him to the NFL. Nathan Chapman played Australian rules football in his younger years but had a dream to bring his kicking skills to the NFL. He knew that he could kick just as well as any of the punters in the league, and he actually thought he could do it better.
Chapman signed with the Packers in 2004, but a variety of reasons stopped him from playing anything other than preseason games. His visa meant he was unable to train with the team and by the time it finally came through, the Packers had signed a full-time kicker. Chapman knew Australian rules players had the kicking skills to rival their American counterparts, so he didn’t give up.
There was no doubt in Chapman’s mind that Australian rules football players would make excellent NFL punters. Chapman believes that Australian rules football players know how to kick a football as well as any NFL player, and they grew up with kicking on their minds.
One kick, in particular, that’s getting a lot of attention is the ‘Aussie kick’ which often bounces backward once hitting the ground instead of heading forward. This means that the long punts can still be in play, allowing additional scoring opportunities for teams. One man who has highlighted his skills in that department is Michael Dickson, a graduate of Prokick Australia.
Dickson was a Pro Bowl player for the 2018 season and is one of many Australians who made it to the American college system. Prokick Australia is designed at bringing Australian players to the NFL, and Chapman claims his company has created 120 guys with millions of dollars’ worth of college scholarships.
That production line of punters coming out of Prokick Australia looks set to churn out more and more future stars, with Mitch Wishnowsky the latest NFL draftee. The future is bright for Australian kickers in the NFL, and it looks as though the future is now.