Australian sportsmen linked to professional American Football

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Former Australian Rules Footballer Saverio Rocca on the field prior to a game against the San Francisco 49ers on 12 October 2008

Australian sportsmen linked to professional American Football include not just a number of successful football code converts, but also a number sportsmen with high profiles either before or as a result of their switching codes.

In Australia, there is an almost equal fascination, among the media and general public, of players linked to the National Football League (NFL) as there is for the Irish experiment.

Although Australians have participated at the highest level of American football level, since the success of Darren Bennett as a punter and more recently Ben Graham, several sportsmen from Australian rules football, rugby league and rugby union have been linked to potential NFL careers.

The punting specialist position requires similar skills to those found in Australian football players and also to specific kicking positions in rugby football. Salaries are up to five times higher and the position lends itself to longevity. Australian football players generally retire at around 30, whereas American football punters can play well into their 40s (in fact, one of the players listed below, Darren Bennett, played 11 seasons in the NFL after leaving behind an Australian rules career when he was nearing 30). Initially Australians sought out American football careers,[1] although now NFL scouts are more often actively seeking punters from Australia[2]

The first Australian to play American Football at a meaningful level was former Australian rules footballer Pat O'Dea in 1898 who was a College Football Hall of Fame player.

Gridiron in Australia is only at amateur level, so the pathway for Australians to NFL teams is typically limited to other professional Australian sports. For almost a decade, the NFL has placed full-time development officers in Australia, including Australian rules football hopeful Dwayne Armstrong. There is a full-time punting academy, 'Prokick Australia' in Australia run by former NFL free agent Nathan Chapman which is aimed at training and assessing talented punters from Australia to positions in major U.S Colleges and the NFL .

Australian Sportsmen Recruited by NFL clubs[edit]

a) brought to the US by an NFL club
b) spent time training with an NFL club
c) played in a NFL pre-season game
d) offered an NFL contract by a club
e) spent time on an NFL roster
Australian sportsmen formerly associated with NFL club highlighted in blue played at least one game at NFL senior level
Australian sportsmen highlighted in green are currently on an NFL senior list
Australian sportsmen highlighted in yellow are currently on an NFL supplementary list
Recruited Player Original sport Original sport position Initial NFL team NFL Debut NFL Games Played Notes
2013 Brad Wing College Football scholarship with LSU Philadelphia Eagles Wing went undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft and was signed by Philadelphia Eagles. After being released by the Eagles - August 25, 2013, Wing played a preseason game with New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers. Added to Pittsburgh Steelers team roster for 2014 season.
2013 Jesse Williams College Football scholarship with University of Alabama & Arizona Western College Seattle Seahawks Williams was taken in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft with the 137th overall selection by the Seattle Seahawks. First native Australian to win a Super Bowl ring after Seattle's victory in Super Bowl XLVIII .
2010 David King Australian Rules New England Patriots He was signed by the New England Patriots April 14, 2010, but was waived June 11, 2010. [3]
2010 Chris Bryan Australian Rules Ruckman Green Bay Packers 2010 4 Contracted by the Green Bay Packers in 2010, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2010) and New York Jets (2011)*[4][5]
2007 Anthony Rocca Australian Rules Forward Philadelphia Eagles Signed with the Eagles, however got homesick and returned to Australia[5]
2009 Jy Bond Australian Rules Miami Dolphins contracted by the Miami Dolphins in 2009
2007 Sav Rocca Australian Rules Forward Philadelphia Eagles 2007 112 Oldest ever rookie in the NFL
2005 Ben Graham Australian Rules Forward New York Jets 2005 99 First Australian to play in the Super Bowl. New York Jets (2005–2008), New Orleans Saints (2008), Arizona Cardinals (2008–2011) and Detroit Lions (2011–2012).
2004 Mat McBriar College Football scholarship with University of Hawaii Dallas Cowboys 2004 138 Went undrafted in 2003. Preseason game with Denver Broncos & Seattle Seahawks in 2003. First NFL game was with the Dallas Cowboys (2003–2011), Philadelphia Eagles (2012) and Pittsburgh Steelers (2013) and de-listed start of the 2014 season.
2006 David Lonie Soccer Washington Redskins 2006 8 kicker/Punter at CAL before stints with Washington and Green Bay
2004 Nathan Chapman Australian Rules Defender (full-back) Green Bay Packers contracted by the Green Bay Packers and played in 3 pre-season games. Rookie and senior mini-camps with the Chicago Bears.
1995 Darren Bennett Australian Rules San Diego Chargers 1995 159 most successful Australian in the history of the NFL. Third highest average (4 punts) 59.50yrds San Diego vs Pittsburgh, Oct. 1, 1995 (4-238) [6]
1987 Colin Scotts Rugby union Arizona Cardinals 1987 first Australian to receive an American football scholarship in the United States
1965 Colin Ridgeway Track & field scholarship with Lamar Tech (now Lamar University) High jumper Dallas Cowboys 1965 3 first Australian to play in the NFL

Professional Australian sportsmen trialled with NFL clubs[edit]

Professional Australian sportsmen public stating an interest in switching to NFL[edit]

(either during or after their Australian professional careers)

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ [2][dead link]
  3. ^ "Official New England Patriots - News - Press Releases News". Patriots.com. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  4. ^ 26 November 2009 12:00AM (26 November 2009). "NFL punt looms large in life of Bryan". Herald Sun. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  5. ^ a b 18 March 2010 12:35AM (18 March 2010). "Former Collingwood player Chris Bryan just a mediocre punter says opposition coach". Herald Sun. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  6. ^ Template:Http://www.nfl.com/history/randf/records/indiv/punting
  7. ^ "Rocca to take another NFL punt with visit to US". AFL.com.au. 17 November 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  8. ^ Peter Kogoy (17 December 2008). "Ex-Sydney Swan, Nick Davis, sets sights on NFL | The Australian". Theaustralian.news.com.au. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  9. ^ Carey can ride off into sunset with Cowboys from Sydney Morning Herald. 27 March 2002
  10. ^ Fri 27 May 2011 (27 May 2011). "Harding becomes first Aussie wide receiver | ABC News". abc.com.au. Retrieved 29 June 2011. 
  11. ^ 23 March 2008 12:00AM (23 March 2008). "Brendan Fevola feared the sack | Herald Sun". News.com.au. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  12. ^ "Breaking News - The West Australian". Thewest.com.au. 19 September 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  13. ^ Troy Thompson. "Three Aussie Punters again for NFL 2008". World Footy News. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  14. ^ Hooper, James (30 March 2008). "Paterson the punter | The Daily Telegraph". News.com.au. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  15. ^ [3][dead link]
  16. ^ Phelps, James (8 December 2006). "Mason left to cool his Jets". The Daily Telegraph. 
  17. ^ COL vs STK 2.30pm. "AFL News". Real Footy. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  18. ^ Williams, Rebecca (31 August 2009). "Paul Wheatley out on high despite strain, gastro | Herald Sun". News.com.au. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  19. ^ Peter Badel (16 May 2010). "Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills invite Greg Inglis to trial as NRL clubs chase Storm star". Courier Mail. Retrieved 23 September 2010.