How ProKick Australia is flooding college football with skilled Australian punters

6 months ago 89

When the nationalist title crippled kicks disconnected connected Monday nighttime from Indianapolis, determination volition beryllium 2 precise funny and arrogant observers from 9,000 miles away. Nathan Chapman and John Smith, the co-founders of ProKick Australia, volition beryllium watching 1 of their erstwhile enrollees punt for No. 1 Alabama.

This isn’t thing caller oregon rare. In fact, it’s rather common. 

Alabama’s James Burnip is presently 1 of 56 Australian punters successful the FBS who were trained astatine ProKick Australia. The academy has grown to the constituent wherever it’s a captious portion of the assemblage shot landscape, and players who person ne'er played a down of American shot earlier entering assemblage are influencing programs (and championships) crossed the nation.

Australian punters successful assemblage shot 2021

Conference Australian Punters Schools successful conference
American 6 11
ACC 4 14
Big 12 4 10
Big Ten 7 14
Conference-USA 7 14
MAC 4 12
Mountain West 4 12
Pac-12 7 12
SEC 5 14
Sun Belt 7 10
Independent 1 8
TOTAL: 56 130

That’s conscionable what Chapman envisioned erstwhile helium started it successful 2007, helium conscionable didn’t deliberation it’d instrumentality 15 years for ProKick to go what it is.

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"A portion of what we did 10 oregon 15 years agone was to acceptable retired to alteration the dynamics of punting itself and alteration the respect punters are fixed wrong a squad and by coaches," Chapman told Sporting News. "We wanted to person them cognize if you've got a bully one, you emotion them, due to the fact that they get you retired of trouble."

Plenty of Chapman's products person gotten plentifulness of teams retired of plentifulness of trouble.

Understandably, it was a dilatory commencement getting an academy disconnected the crushed that would bid athletes for a athletics that is played connected the different broadside of the world. When ProKick was successful its infancy, hardly anyone would instrumentality Chapman's calls. That included successful Australia, too.

"It was beauteous hard, right? We had to merchantability initially — 'Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, bully to conscionable you. We privation to nonstop your lad to America to get a grade and punt astatine college.' It's rather casual for them to go, 'Great, nary worries, sounds good. How agelong person you been doing it?’'' Chapman told SN. "Then we had to archer them, 'Well really you're the archetypal clip we're doing it.' So it was an absorbing situation astatine the commencement to get families connected board."

He ran into akin situations with coaches, though helium had a fewer aboriginal connections from his clip connected tryouts with the Packers and Bears pursuing his pro vocation successful Australian Rules Football.

"Conversely connected the different broadside to an American coach, it was 'Hey, Coach, acknowledgment for picking up the phone. You person nary thought who I am. I'm starting up a concern successful Australia teaching guys however to kick. If I thatch them however to kick, however astir you springiness them a scholarship? Oh, by the way, you can't spot him and they won't travel implicit and visit. You've conscionable got to instrumentality my word.'"

Eventually, they did instrumentality his connection and Chapman got a fewer takers early. Jordan Berry was 1 of 3 enrollees successful 2007 astatine 16 years old, went to Eastern Kentucky astatine 18 and has been punting successful the NFL with the Steelers and Vikings since.

So now, Chapman had impervious of conception that what helium was doing worked, and ProKick was connected its mode to becoming what it is today.

The athletes mostly spell done a 12- to 18-month grooming programme dealing with everything from learning the rules of the game, playing with shot instrumentality for the archetypal clip and knowing the optimal mode to punt an American shot that maximizes magnitude and bent time. Punters bid 3 oregon 4 times a week successful a parkland and astir admit the no-frills attack favored by Chapman and Smith.

Nearly each of the punters who travel done ProKick person immoderate inheritance successful Australian rules football, wherever the superior mode to beforehand the shot down the tract is to punt it to your teammate. That’s wherefore Australian punters thin to instrumentality a fewer moving steps disconnected to the broadside earlier kicking it arsenic opposed to American punters, who instrumentality 1 oregon 2 steps guardant earlier the kick.

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It's a accomplishment that's acquired astatine an aboriginal property successful Australia and 1 which Oklahoma State's Tom Hutton ne'er thought he'd get to amusement disconnected astatine the adjacent level.

"If you can't punt successful Australian rules football, you can't play the game. So to beryllium capable to walk and score, you person to beryllium capable to punt with the end-over-end punts," Hutton told SN. "The mode Americans turn up throwing the shot around, we turn up from the property of similar 2, trying to punt to get it out. It's conscionable a earthy Australian accomplishment to beryllium capable to punt a football."

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At 31, Hutton conscionable finished his inferior play with Mike Gundy's squad. After moving full-time successful a insubstantial mill and being financially secure, Hutton, who had ever been athletic, decided to springiness ProKick a chance. After grooming for implicit a year, helium yet got to Stillwater astatine 29. 

Being an older freshman and devoting clip to grooming and honing their trade isn't a rarity for Australian punters. Iowa’s Tory Taylor, Cincinnati's James Smith, Hutton and Rutgers’ Adam Korsak each came stateside and were freshmen erstwhile they were astir 21 oregon 22. It mightiness not look similar a lot, but those fewer other years look to marque each the difference. 

"This is nonrecreational athletics with the level of expectations. Take the wealth retired of it. It's nonrecreational athletics — there's radical who gamble connected it, there's fans who spell brainsick and if they don't similar what you do, they nonstop you worldly connected societal media," Chapman said. "A 17 oregon 18-year-old who's had a bully time kicking a shot for a kicking manager who's said you request to instrumentality this guy, not disquieted astir the wide holistic attack — he's not ready. He's gonna crumble if it's excessively large nether pressure.”

As it turns out, Chapman’s guys don’t crumble nether the pressure. Since 2013, six Ray Guy Award winners person trained astatine ProKick successful summation to respective all-conference and All-American punters.

Mike Gundy saw that archetypal manus erstwhile Oklahoma State was playing Texas and the Longhorns had Australian Michael Dickson, present with the Seahawks. Dickson performed good against Oklahoma State and from determination it became a classical lawsuit of you don’t cognize what you privation until you don’t person it.

That’s however Hutton coiled up successful Stillwater.

‘[Coach] Gundy said to our peculiar teams manager astatine the clip that we request to get an Australian punter and past that conscionable happened to beryllium astir the clip that I'd started punting with ProKick,” Hutton said. “I deliberation I was 1 of the lone left-footers determination and I was besides the lone feline that was similar implicit 18 oregon 19. They wanted idiosyncratic that was a small spot much mature truthful they wouldn't get homesick easily.”

New Notre Dame peculiar teams manager Brian Mason has seen firsthand the worth of maturity, arsenic helium has acquisition with Australian punters dating backmost to erstwhile stops astatine Cincinnati and Ohio State.

The older punters, Mason says, marque him much assured successful his portion anytime they’re connected the field.

"Most of the Australians coming implicit are 20, 21 years old. Some are adjacent older successful uncommon exceptions. So present you're getting idiosyncratic that has, successful a batch of cases, already played nonrecreational Australian rules football, is already a small spot much mature and has handled a batch of antithetic situations,” helium said. “So adjacent erstwhile they're a freshman, you're a small spot much comfy with them going retired determination and knowing they tin grip the unit and the anxiousness of the antithetic situations.”

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The unit isn’t ever external, either. 

In the lawsuit of Korsak, 1 of 3 finalists for this year’s Ray Guy Award, helium challenged himself to beryllium palmy close away.

“I placed precocious expectations connected myself and I deliberation that's a steadfast happening due to the fact that it gets backmost to that happening of ne'er being satisfied,” Korsak said.

Korsak, similar galore of his ProKick compatriots, has been wildly successful. He was an All-American this twelvemonth and is simply a three-time All-Big Ten honoree. He’s besides 1 of the much fashionable figures connected the team, which hasn’t ever been the lawsuit with punters. Iowa peculiar teams manager LeVar Woods says Taylor is simply a stone prima successful Iowa City.

“Just knowing him and the benignant of idiosyncratic helium is and the benignant of teammate is, that's what makes it truthful rewarding due to the fact that he's specified a large person,” Woods said. “To spot the mode our fans person embraced him, the mode that radical perfectly spell nuts. When they denote the starting lineup and they denote Tory Taylor, the spot goes crazy.”

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Taylor admits, helium drowned it astatine first, but yet it became intolerable to ignore.

“The 1 happening I'm bully astatine is truly narrowing successful and focusing connected the 10 seconds oregon truthful that I'm retired there,” helium said. “I'm not gonna lie. It's beauteous special. It took maine a portion to truly soak it up due to the fact that I effort to disregard astir of the sound from everyone else, but it's benignant of hard not to notice.”

The novelty (and productivity) of the Australian punters sparked the maturation of ProKick that relied mostly connected connection of rima recommendations of players that had travel retired of the academy. 

Coaches transcript what works and teams privation each borderline they tin get. It seems, astatine slightest for the clip being, Australian punters whitethorn beryllium that adjacent edge. 

“Tory's 1 of the champion players connected our shot team, careless of position,” says Woods, whose Iowa squad punted 82 times, tied for 2nd astir successful the nation. “When you privation to triumph a game, you enactment the champion players successful the crippled and Tory's 1 of our champion players.”

And arsenic perceptions alteration astir peculiar teams and its value and arsenic it becomes much and much emphasized, Chapman has created a brotherhood that’s hundreds of radical heavy successful a state 9,000 miles away.

“You're changing the crippled of assemblage shot with conscionable the occurrence that we've had successful presumption of the Ray Guy oregon all-conference practice and present besides filtering into the NFL,” said 2018 Cincinnati All-American James Smith, who hopes to marque an NFL roster successful 2022. “To beryllium a portion of that process that changed the mode punting is looked astatine successful assemblage football, it's truly miraculous. And it's a privilege to beryllium a portion of that.”

Australian Ray Guy Award winners

Year Winner School
2013 Tom Hornsey Memphis
2014 Tom Hackett Utah
2015 Tom Hackett Utah
2016 Mitch Wishnowsky Utah
2017 Michael Dickson Texas
2019 Max Duffy Kentucky
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