the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Long Road from Australia to the NFL, part 2

Seeking a coveted punting job in the NFL, one Australian spent spring of 2009 with the Miami Dolphins and spring of 2010 with the New York Giants. He did not land either job. But that is not the end of his story. In 2004 and 2010, two different Australians spent their summer in Green Bay competing for the Packers punting job. Neither one of them won the job. But that was not the end of either of their stories, which also happened to merge into a single story in the intervening years.

In part one of this topic, we looked at two different possible roads from Australia to the NFL. Jy Bond has traveled a third road by eventually training with two Australians who had reached the final destination - former NFL punter Darren Bennett and current NFL punter Sav Rocca. Although he did not win the Dolphins or the Giants jobs, he has since landed the Hartford Colonials of the UFL. We recently connected with Jy who answered a few questions for us:

What has been the biggest challenge in adapting from Australian Rules to American football punting?
"The ball it's less forgiving than the AFL ball. The sweet spot is much smaller and room for error is far greater. The challenge is to hit good balls every time and my expectation level is very high so I put a lot of pressure on myself. I was a running player at home so kicking from a standing start is different as well."
What has turned out to be the most important advice you received from Darren Bennett and Sav Rocca?
"Darren and Sav have been great and the best advice is to trust my ability - I have been blessed with a natural ability and worked dam hard at being the best I can be. I have kicked 10000s of balls in my life and I know what to do. It's just a matter of doing it - there is a level of nothing is a problem attitude - go out there and punt the ball."
How has your UFL experience differed from your NFL experiences?
"UFL has been actually very intense - I'm the only punter so I punt everyday - there is no JUGS so I punt all drills. It's been a learning curve here as well. My coach Kevin O'Dea is great and has been a great support and help to me. He is a hard task master but I appreciate it as it has made me a better punter. Coach Palmer is a great leader of men and has also given me chance to game time and develop my trade. I am extremely grateful to be here and getting the chance to play the game everyday and be around a great bunch of blokes working hard every day to get better and be a successful team."
The most recent Australian to secure a starting job in the NFL is Chris Bryan, whom Tampa Bay signed just prior to the start of the regular season this year. The Buccaneers claimed him off waivers from Green Bay - where Bryan had spent the spring and summer, but lost out in a very close competition with Tim Masthay. Similar to Bond, Bryan had also reached that point by training under another Australian - but in this case one that had come up just short of making the NFL. He worked with Nathan Chapman, who after missing the final cut for the Packers roster in 2004 decided to do something about it - not for himself, but for those who would follow in his footsteps. Among others who trained under Chapman was none other then Jy Bond. We recently spoke to Nathan regarding the past, present, and future of Australian kicking:

Can you tell us a little bit about your road from the AFL to a summer with Green Bay?
"That road took three years of training on my own and lots of late night emails trying to get a contact to look at my film in the USA. I always wanted to try the NFL once my professional career in AFL was finished. I impressed in my workout to be signed on the spot and had to eventually compete against a 3rd round drafted punter. Little did I know that it was going to be hard to win the job over such a high draft pick even though he averaged 35 yards in the preseason. I loved every minute though."
How did ProKick Australia come about?
"After I came back I wanted to help other guys have a better chance of making the roster and to college. I had forged a number of contacts that thought they would like to see some more Australians. If I trained them properly then they should be better off than I was. I was trying to inform the Australian guys that its a bit harder than just kicking a ball and they should prepare for it because of the contractual nature of the NFL is not that secure."
What did your work with Chris Bryan involve?
"We did a lot of mechanical changes to enhance his kick and to become more consistent. So it was ball drop, stepping pattern and straight follow thru for hours every day. Once we had him to a competitive level we produced a film of him and contacted a number of teams that needed a punter. We had four clubs wanting to take a look as soon as he got to the states, but he was signed at his first trial at Green Bay. Also, throughout his 12 months with us we had to mentor him on the game, the scenarios that he would go thru, so that there would be no surprises once he got there."
Now that your punters are seeing increased success, will we ever see an Australian placekicker in the NFL?
"Yes, there will be... in fact we may have one ready in the next 12 months. This would be a great feat as the kicking level is very good in the US as it is with some amazing kids coming thru the college system....
One thing about our program is that we do not have guys go to the USA unless they are ready to compete. We have a guy who looks like he will be ready, however if he is borderline come March, he will not go or be invited for trials in the USA. For the kicking position and our first kicker representing ProKick, we must have the real deal to make sure our reputation is upheld. Quality not quantity. We are very specific in the things that we teach in our program and it covers more than just kicking the ball. We have to make the transition of players into the NFL or college as smooth as it could be to help with their success, and we also have to continue coaching them so their development as players can continue. We will have a big presence in the NFL next year."


Anonymous said...

Jy Bond trained with Nathan Chapman and ProKick Australia in Melbourne for 2 years before before they placed him with the Miami Dolphins in 2009.

Mike Herman said...

Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I didn't realize I was missing that early piece of the puzzle.

leif angus said...

Yeah I also follow on this great players, all I can say to them they're so professional and so very skillful.

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