the study of the kicking components within sports

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Long Road from Australia to the NFL, part 1

With the smashing success of our recent Marn Grook post, and with the AFL Grand Final nearly upon us, we continue with the Australian theme. In recent years, Darren Bennett, Mat McBriar, Ben Graham, Sav Rocca have shown that the Aussies' extensive background in punting balls can translate into successful NFL careers. Chris Bryan is the latest, having spent camp this summer with the Packers and then ending up with the Buccaneers just prior to the regular season. Landing one of the coveted 32 NFL punting jobs is challenging enough for someone from the United States, so how do those from the other end of the world go about it? Today we look at two of the possible scenarios.

For Americans, the road to the NFL passes through American colleges and universities. Australian Jay Karutz is trying that route. He joined the highly competitive kicking camp and college recruiting process, albeit with far more complicated logistics and higher expense given the long distance involved. He ultimately received a walk-on offer from Ohio state and a scholarship offer from Eastern Michigan, the latter which he accepted. Karutz recently commented on the whole experience:
"I figured I might as well take a crack at it rather than thinking 10 years down the track we should have taken the crack....
You would have some coaches and they were excited and you think, 'OK, this sounds good, they want to recruit me. Then, you don't hear from them for like four months and you keep sending them e-mails and you're wondering what's going on....
"Pretty much every day, there's something new that pops up that keeps you guessing, 'Why am I here' or 'How did this happen?'" he said. "But the longer you're here, the more like you feel like you fit in and you know where to go for things, and I'm just happy to be here. I'm really enjoying it."
"We tried to explain to [the various colleges] what I was capable of doing, but I think they were a little scared of a kid from a different country who had never played before. Maybe they'll think differently in the future....
[American football is] speed and power, whereas Australian rules is endurance and aerobic capacity and the ability to be able to run a very, very long way. People are running anywhere from 10 to 15 to 20 miles a game."
One road that Americans do not tend to travel is first playing rugby around the world. But that is what Australian Dan Powers has done.
His professional rugby career began in the National Rugby League in Australia, then moved on to France, and finally ended up in the United States.

We recently spoke to Dan regarding his quest to be an NFL punter.

Unlike most Australians looking to make the transition to American football punting, you come from a rugby background rather than Australian Rules football. From a kicking perspective, how does that differ?
"Not much to be honest both codes use the drop punt or Aussie punt as it is known here, Rugby uses the spiral punt more than the AFL so that transition has come a little more natural for me than it may an AFL guy. The purpose for kicking is probably more similar to the NFL in Rugby than Aussie Rules as we use the kick to gain terroritory while also making sure our kick is coverable through both hang time and direction as opposed to AFL which use it to pass and score."
Your road featured a detour through France. What do recall most from that experience?
"I had a fantastic time in France, leaving Australia and family for the first time really was the catalyst for me to grow up and become a man. Obviously the language barrier is the biggest challenge there but it was the cultural idiosyncrasies that caught me out the most, smoking in restaurants, dogs in restaurants, all the different hand gestures. From a sporting aspect I was subjected to vocal crowds, I had played in front of big crowds in Australia but in France the bought drums, trumpets, whistles you name it and they loved to use them at critical times in the game."
You’ve worked out for the Dolphins and the Jets. How did that come about? Did they find you, or did you seek them out?
"I had put together some film that was picked up by Coach Steve Hoffman and was invited down to Miami in early 2009. Unfortunately the timing wasn't ideal and Coach Hoffman was snapped up by the Chiefs and that was that for me. The Jets was with a few other punters just before the 2009 training camp. I really wasted two great opportunities by not being ready, I was still playing rugby for the USA team and turned up to both workouts after long tours, I was also still thinking of myself as a rugby player trying to punt instead of a punter trying to punt, these failures taught me nothing comes easy so I went and got coached by the best in the business, Coach Gary Zauner, Coach Filip Filipovic, my agent and former NFL kicker Jon Baker and I train with NFL punter Dirk Johnson (who is a deadset legend) plus I get NFL mentoring on how to carry myself in from former Jags linebacker Bryan Schwartz and Super Bowl champion Darrius Holland. When the next opportunity comes I will be ready to realize my NFL dream."


Anonymous said...

Power is beast. Best punter outside the nfl for sure.

Jolly rodger said...

Any guy nicknamed "damage" gets a start in my team.

Anonymous said...

Still did not make it as a nfl punter

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