Past, Present, and Future Australians in NFL
While they might not get as much praise as their high profile teammates, Australians are continuing to impress in the NFL .
The hype of the Super Bowl continues to grow each year in Australia, and it is not uncommon to find sports bars filled with patrons wearing NFL jerseys throughout the playoffs. While many fans are fixated on famous quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are currently four Australians plying their trade in the NFL. And all are performing well.
Current Australians in the NFL
Brad Wing: New York Giants, Punter
The most charismatic of the current crop of Aussies in the NFL, Brad Wing has made quite a name for himself in the Big Apple. He is best friends with star receiver Odell Beckham Jr, was featured on a podcast by famous entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, and was even given a shoutout in a Nicki Minaj song. The famous rapper states that she’s “Playing the field, Brad Wingin the punt” during a track with Calvin Harris.
After starring for LSU in college (where he roomed with Odell), Wing failed to impress in a trial with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, and was immediately released without playing a single game.
A year later he was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and although he had a solid punting season, he was best remembered for becoming the first ever Australian to successfully throw for a 2-point conversion - which came after a failed field goal attempt where Wing was the holder.
After one season with the Steelers, Wing was then traded to the New York Giants, and hasn’t looked back, featuring in every Giants game over the last three seasons. Unfortunately the Giants are coming off a tumultuous 2017, and the pressure will be on every member of the G-Men to atone for missing the playoffs.
Lachlan Edwards: New York Jets, Punter
After being drafted by the Jets in 2016, Lachlan Edwards struggled in his rookie season, averaging the fewest yards by any punter across the NFL. Thankfully, head coach Todd Bowles stuck by the former North Ballarat VFL player, and things quickly turned around.
Edwards played in all 16 games for the Jets in his second season, and although the perennial strugglers only managed five wins, Edwards was one of the standout performers for ‘Gang Green’, and was ranked third in the NFL for total punting yards.
After enduring a tough college apprenticeship in front of small crowds at Sam Houston State, Edwards appears to have finally adjusted to the bright lights and scrutiny of New York City.
Jordan Berry: Pittsburgh Steelers, Punter
The reason why the Steelers traded fellow Aussie Brad Wing to the New York Giants, Jordan Berry has featured in numerous playoff games for Pittsburgh, and continues to stand out in a star-studded team.
A talented Aussie Rules footballer from Essendon, Berry paid for his own way for a chance in the NFL, working night shifts at McDonald’s and the Queen Victoria Market to raise enough funds for one last trial.
His hard work finally paid off when he was signed by Pittsburgh in April 2015, and although he endured an inconsistent season in 2017 (reflective of his team’s fortunes), Berry should remain confident of returning to Steeler Nation in 2018.
Adam Gotsis: Denver Broncos, Defensive End
Raised in Abbotsford, Melbourne, and weighing in at 139kg, Adam Gotsis is the only current Australian in the NFL who is not a punter.
After losing interest in playing Aussie Rules as a youngster, Gotsis turned to a local American Football team - the Monash Warriors, in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. It turned out to be the right decision, as his impressive play eventually lead him to Georgia Tech, located in the football-obsessed city of Atlanta.
Gotsis proved to be popular among Georgia Tech’s massive fanbase, and after four years of College, he was given the chance of a lifetime in the NFL, drafted by the Denver Broncos just months after their Super Bowl win over Carolina.
While the Broncos were extremely disappointing this season, winning only five games, Gotsis held down his spot and featured in every game.
He also remains a passionate ambassador for Australian charity “Around the Campfire”, which aims to improve social and economic circumstances for indigenous communities, and wore indigenous-inspired cleats to promote the charity during a game against Miami in December.
Former Australian NFL Players
Former West Coast Eagles and Melbourne forward Darren Bennett paved the way for the influx of Australian punters in American Football, and remains the most successful Australian to play in the NFL.
Debuting in 1995 for the San Diego Chargers, Bennett enjoyed a career spanning over 10 years, including nine at the Chargers and one in Minnesota with the Vikings. In 2012 he was inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame, and is credit for introducing the Aussie Rules style Drop Punt to American Football.
Other notable Australians to enjoy game time in the NFL include Sav Rocca (Eagles and Redskins), Jesse Williams (Seattle Seahawks) - who was the first Australian to win a Super Bowl, Chris Bryan (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) known for his giant torpedo kicks, and Jarryd Hayne, who left the NRL to become a running back for the 49ers.
Over 30 Australian punters featured in College Football last season, and that number is expected to grow thanks to Prokick - a successful punting program set up by former AFL and NFL player Nathan Chapman.
The next Australian tipped for NFL stardom is former Texas Longhorns punter Michael Dickson, who recently won the Ray Guy Award - which recognises the best punter in all of College Football. That award has now been won by an Australian for five consecutive years.
After an outstanding performance in the Texas Bowl in December, Dickson became only the second punter in history receive an MVP award for a College Bowl game, strengthening his chances of being drafted by an NFL team this year.
While the Longhorns have had to say goodbye to one of their greatest punters ever, they have quickly replaced him with his cousin - Ryan Bujcevski from Sydney.
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