When a national championship match starts in Indianapolis on Monday night, two very interested and proud observers will be at a distance of 9,000 miles. Nathan Chapman and John Smith, co-founders of ProKick Australia, will watch one of their former students as they try to get No. 1 in Alabama.
It is nothing new or rare. In fact, it is quite common.
James Burnip of Alabama is currently one of 56 Australian bettors at FBS who have been trained at ProKick Australia. The academy has grown to the point where it is a vital part of the university football environment, and players who have never played American football before entering college are influencing programs (and championships) across the country.
Australian University Football Bettors 2021
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That’s exactly what Chapman imagined when he started in 2007, he just didn’t think it would take 15 years for ProKick to become what it was.
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“Part of what we did 10 or 15 years ago was to change the dynamics of the punting itself and to change the respect that punters show in the team and from the coaches,” Chapman told Sporting News. “We wanted them to know if you’re good, you love them because they’ll get you out of trouble.”
Lots of Chapman products have brought a lot of teams out of many problems.
Of course, this was the slow start of the academy, which would prepare athletes for the sport that is played on the other side of the world. When ProKick was in his infancy, hardly anyone received Chapman’s calls. This included Australia.
“It was pretty hard, wasn’t it? We had to sell first – ‘Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, nice to meet you. We want to send your son to America to get a degree so he can go to college.” It’s pretty easy for them to say, ‘Great, no worries, that sounds good. How long have you been doing this? ” ‘Chapman told SN. “Then we had to tell them, ‘Well, this is the first time you’re’ doing it. ‘ So in the beginning, it was an interesting challenge to get families on board. “
He got into similar situations with coaches, although he had the first few connections from rehearsals with the Packers and Bears after his professional career in Australian Rules Football.
“On the other hand, the American coach was’ Hey, Coach, thanks for picking up the phone. You have no idea who I am. I’m starting a business in Australia and teaching boys how to dig. Teach them to dig, what if you gave them a scholarship? Oh “By the way, you can’t see him and they won’t come to visit. You have to take my word for it.”
Eventually, they took his word, and Chapman gained several candidates earlier. Jordan Berry was one of three entered in 2007 at the age of 16, left for Eastern Kentucky at 18 and has since played in the NFL with the Steelers and Vikings.
So now Chapman had proof of the concept that what he was doing worked, and ProKick was on his way to becoming what he is today.
Athletes typically go through a 12- to 18-month training program that covers everything from learning the rules of the game, playing football equipment for the first time, and understanding the optimal way to play American football that maximizes length and time spent hanging. Bettors train three or four times a week in the park and most appreciate the simple approach that Chapman and Smith prefer.
Almost all bookmakers who go through ProKick have some experience with Australian football, where the primary way to advance the ball down the field is to prick it to their teammate. That’s why Australian punters tend to take a few steps aside before kicking, unlike American punters, who take one or two steps ahead of a kick.
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It’s a skill they learned at an early age in Australia that Tom Hutton of Oklahoma State never thought he could demonstrate.
“If you can’t puncture in Australian football, you can’t play the game. So in order to pass and score, you have to be able to puncture end-over-end points,” Hutton told SN. “The way Americans grow up and throw around, we’ve been growing up since we’ve been 2 years and we’re trying to puncture to get it out. Being able to prick football is just a natural Australian skill.”
At age 31, Hutton has just finished his junior season with Mike Gundy’s team. After working full-time at a paper mill and being financially secure, Hutton, who had always been sports-minded, decided to give ProKick a chance. After more than a year of training, he finally reached Stillwater at the age of 29.
Being an older freshman and devoting time to training and honing the craft is no rarity for Australian punters. Tory Taylor of Iowa, James Smith of Cincinnati, Hutton and Adam Korsak of Rutgers all came to the United States and were freshmen when they were around 21 or 22. It may not seem like much, but those few years seem to make a difference.
“This is a professional sport with a level of expectation. Take money from it. It’s a professional sport – there are people who bet in it, there are fans who go crazy, and when they don’t like what you’re doing, they send things to you. ” social networks, “Chapman said. “A 17-year-old or 18-year-old who had a good day kicking football for a kicking coach who said you had to take this guy, not worry about the overall holistic approach – not ready. He’ll collapse when he’s too much pressure.”
As it turned out, Chapman’s men didn’t collapse under pressure. Since 2013, six Ray Guy Awards winners and several all-conference and all-American bettors have trained at ProKick.
Mike Gundy saw it first hand when Oklahoma State played with Texas and the Longhorns had Australian Michael Dickson, now with the Seahawks. Dickson put on a good performance against Oklahoma State and from there it has become a classic case where you don’t know what you want until you have it.
So Hutton ended up in Stillwater.
‘[Coach] Gundy told our specialty coach then that we needed to get an Australian bookmaker, and then it happened when I started playing with ProKick, “said Hutton. “I think I was one of the few lefties there and I was also the only boy who was over 18 or 19. They wanted someone who was a little more mature so they wouldn’t miss home easily.”
New Notre Dame specialty coach Brian Mason saw first-hand the value of maturity because he has experience with Australian punters from previous stops in Cincinnati and Ohio State.
Mason says he has more confidence in his unit thanks to older bookmakers whenever they are on the court.
“Most of the Australians who come are 20, 21. Some are even older, with rare exceptions. So now you have someone who in many cases has already played professional Australian football, is a little more advanced and has handled a lot of different situations,” he said. situation.”
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Even the pressure is not always external.
In the case of Korsak, one of the three finalists for this year’s Ray Guy Award, he immediately faced himself.
“I have high expectations and I think it’s healthy because it goes back to never being happy,” Korsak said.
Korsak, like many of his ProKick compatriots, was incredibly successful. He was All-American this year and is a three-time All-Big Ten. He is also one of the most popular characters on the team, which has not always been the custom with gamblers. Iowa special teams coach LeVar Woods says Taylor is a rock star in Iowa City.
“Just knowing him, what kind of person he is and what kind of teammate he is, that’s what makes it so rewarding, because he’s such a great person,” Woods said. “To see how our fans accepted him, how people went completely crazy.” When he announces the starting line-up and announces Tory Taylor, the place goes crazy. “
Taylor admits that he drowned it first, but in the end it was impossible to ignore.
“One thing I’m good at is really narrowing down and concentrating for about 10 seconds when I’m out,” he said. “I will not lie.” It’s pretty weird. It took me a while to really absorb it, because I try to ignore most of the noise from everyone else, but it’s hard not to notice. “
The novelty (and productivity) of Australian bettors stimulated the growth of ProKick, which relied mainly on the oral recommendations of players who left the academy.
Coaches copy what works, and teams want every benefit they can get. It seems, at least for now, Australian bettors may be another edge.
“Tory is one of the best players on our football team, regardless of position,” says Woods, whose Iowa team has scored 82 times and split second in the country. “If you want to win the game, you put the best players in the game and Tory is one of our best players.”
And as ideas of special teams and their importance change, and as this is increasingly emphasized, Chapman has formed a fraternity that has hundreds of people deep in the country 9,000 miles away.
“You are changing the game of college football to the success we have had in Ray Guy or the national team and now also filtering into the NFL,” said 2018 Cincinnati All-American James Smith, who hopes to create an NFL roster in 2022. “Being part of a process that Changing the look of punting in college football is truly miraculous. And I’m honored to be a part of it. “
Australian Ray Guy Award winners