Nathan Chapman played Aussie Rules football, or "footy" in the 1990s. But injuries (hamstrings, groin, right knee ligaments, ankles, right hand, right shoulder) avalanched his footy career. He schemed to become a punter (an important skill in Aussie football), earning a tryout with the Green Bay Packers and later making offseason NFL rosters with the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals, but he never punted in the regular season.
Yet Chapman learned from his mistakes. Most of all, he realized his punting career should have started with college football, where there is a greater overall need for kickers, especially those arriving from playing a sport Down Under in which 80-yard kicks are not uncommon.
Chapman and a business partner started Prokick Australia in 2008, setting up a modest operation in Melbourne. But even then applicants were only accepted if they could punt an American football at least 45 yards with a 4.5-second hang time (sort of like saying you only get into college with perfect SAT scores).
By 2012, Chapman had perfected how Aussie Rules players could become NCAA college and NFL pro punters. While the Aussie game allows a player/kicker a long running start, the American game has long set up the punter to take one step and punt. Chapman created a hybrid style in which the punter takes a few steps on a diagonal to get power in the kick and avoid the onrushing defenders looking to block the punt.
The tweaking worked big time for hang time by 2013 — as Chapman’s pupils were getting scholarships to schools such as Ohio State (where Prokick alum Cameron Johnston won a national championship and is currently one of four Aussie punters on NFL rosters). Other college programs tapping into Prokick that year included LSU, Utah, Ole Miss and Oregon State.
One sign Aussie punters are all the rage? Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh wanted to set up a satellite tryout camp at Prokick, which the NCAA rebuffed. More compelling evidence? More than 70 Prokick "graduates" punted for American college football programs in 2018.
Now that’s the way for Aussies to kick it up a notch with American and global sports.