Travel restrictions because of coronavirus may be ruining many of the promising careers of elite Australian student-athletes waiting to take up American football scholarships at US universities, a top training academy has warned.
Prokick Australia, which currently has six of its former students playing in America’s lucrative NFL, said the delays to students starting studying and playing college football may be enough to end some careers for the older athletes in the program before they start.
“Things sort of happen for a reason, if you’re just older it might have just not been the right time to go and that’s just the way it is,” Nathan Chapman, head coach and director of Prokick Australia said.
Due to the border restrictions, Prokick Australia is uncertain when they can send over athletes to start university in America. And right now, with 38 scholarships in place for 2020-21, that’s a lot of guys waiting for borders to reopen.
“We find the school, we work with the school because we believe it’s a good fit, get them an offer and we commit,” Chapman said when speaking about how ProKick athletes get scholarships.
Australians in American football don’t get much attention outside of when star players like Jarryd Hayne and Valentine Holmes pursue there “dream” of playing American Football. But Prokick Australia has produced the largest number of Australians in both college football and the NFL over the last 13 years.
Since being developed in 2007, by Chapman, Prokick Australia has earned 75 scholarships to American Universities, worth $19 million in free education. With four of the last five Ray Guy Award winners, for the best punter in college football, and two recent NFL draft picks, Prokick Australia has earned quite the reputation in the United States.
Chapman himself spent eight seasons in the AFL before signing with the Green Bay Packers in 2004, before going on to found Prokick.
There is a huge market for Australians in American Football. At the moment, Michael Dickson (Seattle Seahawks), Cameron Johnston (Philadelphia Eagles), Jordan Berry (Pittsburgh Steelers), Mitch Wishnowsky (San Francisco 49ers), have jobs as NFL punters. Arryn Siposs (Detroit Lions) signed this off-season and will battle for the punting role. All of them started at Prokick, before playing college football and earning spots on an NFL roster.
COVID-19 restrictions have caused many changes in the way the academy trains also.
“A couple of months of only being able to train one on one, 45 guys in our program meant for long days,” he said
Prokick used the time to allow the guys to have a break and work on themselves. It did, however, allow for them to get in contact with more coaches in America who were also at home and not running off season practices which are the standard at this time of year.
America is starting to take notice of how good Australians are at punting at the college and NFL level.
“I like the fact the position is important again, now you’re a commodity,” Chapman said about how the position has changed in recent years.
The game of football is always changing at every position, and Chapman is committed to adapting his training academy to the games needs to keep producing elite Australian punters to send to the US each year.
“Produce the next level of punters, staying ahead of the curve. How do we keep evolving? It’s not by doing the same thing. The game will change,” he added.
“In five years time I’d like to think we have 12-13 guys in the NFL.”
With 32 teams in the NFL, having 12-13 Australian Punters on an NFL roster would mean Australia would be represented on nearly half the league’s teams.