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Australian Punters Are Putting a New Spin on Football

On a cloudy, gusty morning last month, a group of about 36 individuals consisting of students, teachers, construction workers, electricians, and bartenders gathered on a soccer field outside Melbourne. They were wearing helmets and shoulder pads as they practiced a variety of kicks, including torpedoes, banana kicks, and drop punts. These individuals were training to become the next generation of Australian punters, a position that greatly influences special teams play in American college football and the NFL to some extent.

According to Prokick Australia, an academy based in Melbourne that trains Australian rules football and rugby players to become punters and kickers for American football, 61 out of the 133 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of NCAA football, have Australian punters on their rosters this season. Australians have made a significant impact on the game with their long, accurate, and skillful kicks, which often produce tricky curves and bounces. In fact, Australians have won the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding collegiate punter, seven times in the past 10 seasons.

The influence of Australian punters is also evident in the composition of college football leagues. The Southeastern Conference, known for its competitiveness, has 12 out of 14 teams with Australian punters, while the Big Ten Conference has 8 teams with Australian punters and 1 with a punter from New Zealand. In the NFL, Australian punters like Michael Dickson, Mitch Wishnowsky, Lou Hedley, and Cameron Johnston have found success on active rosters.

The success of Australian punters can be attributed to their background in Australian rules football, a sport where kicking plays a crucial role in advancing the ball. From a young age, Australian players become skilled at accurately kicking the oval-shaped ball to their teammates while on the run and under pressure. This background translates well into the skills required for punting in American football.

The training program at Prokick Australia has gained a reputation for producing talented punters, with NCAA coaches offering scholarships to players they have only seen on video. The academy has sent over 200 Australian players to American colleges since 2009, with a high percentage of them earning their degrees. This success is due to the academy’s training methods and the transparency of the recruitment process, where coaches can assess punters based on their specific needs and team schemes.

The impact of Australian punters is changing the way the game is played. Their kicks, such as the torpedo, banana kick, and drop punt, create challenges for returners and force teams to make strategic adjustments. College punters from Australia are known for their ability to kick across their bodies and whip the ball in unexpected directions, making it difficult for returners to handle the ball effectively.

The journey to becoming an Australian punter in the United States is not an easy one, as it involves cultural, social, and athletic challenges. Punters often face pressure and unfamiliarity when they arrive in the United States, but many have found success and transformed their lives through the opportunity to play American football.

Overall, the influence of Australian punters in American college football and the NFL is undeniable. Their unique skills and precision have elevated the game and forced teams to adapt their strategies. With their continued success, it is clear that the impact of Australian punters on American football will only grow stronger in the future.