American gridiron teams have a hankering for Australian punters.
The kicking, not the gambling sort of punters.
Several Aussies work in the NFL and some in the major college ranks of the NCAA. They are valuable mainly for the abilities to kick on the run and to accurately kick to a certain distance.
ProKick Australia, located in Melbourne, is sending Josh Watts to the University of Colorado. Anyone who thinks the 193 cm, 91 kg Watts can kick now will be amazed when Watts begins booming the ball in the high altitude of Boulder, Colorado.
The Colorado Buffalos have not been at or near the top of the NCAA rankings for more than two decades, but the size and athleticism of Watts will certainly make for some interesting fourth downs and the anemic offense the Buffs possess means that Watts will get on the field frequently.
Watts is the sort of prospect the AFL and the NRL value, but Watts is chasing a job in the NFL, where punters, while amongst the lowest paid players in the NFL, have an opportunity to earn salaries that make top NRL and AFL players look like minimum wage earners.
This is the precise reason why you see great Aussie footballers, such as Jarryd Hayne and Valentine Holmes, hopping codes. Both of them were chasing jobs at the skilled positions of receiver and running back and while both possessed exceptional athleticism, they did not have the experience to edge out players with equal athleticism, but far greater gridiron experience. Several Aussies with footy experience, however, have found fields of green in American gridiron.
Another ProKick product, Jeremey Crawshaw, is headed for the University of Florida, where he will use his mighty leg for the benefit of the Gators.
Florida’s recruiting efforts have been impressive. They have letters of intent from 12 highly regarded recruits.
Watts’ choice, University of Colorado, have only two in this year’s recruiting class who rank in the top 300 of ESPN rankings, but from the perspective of geography, Colorado is much superior to Florida.
Both these blokes have the length and bulk to play other positions, but the probability is better than we might one day see them in the NFL as kickers.