ORLANDO, Fla. - Every single major NCAA Division 1 college football team in the state of Florida has a punter from Australia, which is pretty wild, especially when you consider that a lot of these guys knew virtually nothing about the sport when they started.
"Nothing, nothing, yeah, I knew nothing," said UCF Knights freshman punter Mitch McCarthy. "I knew what a touchdown was. I didn't even know what a touchback was. I didn't know how far, how many yards, you had to stand back for a punt. I didn't know what a shield was. I didn't know it was called a snap. Just all that stuff. We're all like that when we come over here, we've got no clue what's going on, so you just gotta learn. It's almost like learning on the job when you get here."
All of these Aussie kickers went through a program called Prokick Australia, which teaches Aussie athletes how to kick for American Football. Which actually comes pretty naturally for most of these guys. They've been kicking and playing Australian rules football or rugby their whole lives.
"I was probably, kindergarten, so four, three or four years old was when I first started doing clinics and stuff," said McCarthy.
Once these guys get to the U.S. and start with their teams, they've got a lot to overcome. Like cultural adjustments, and being so far away from loved ones.
"It definitely does get really difficult to keep in touch with some people, you know?" said University of Florida Sophomore Punter Jeremy Crawshaw.
"If anyone says it's easy, they're lying to you," said McCarthy. "It's bloody hard. So, to be away from, you know I'm a bit of a momma's boy, so to be away from my mom is tough. We stay in contact as much as we can, but you can only do so many Facetimes. You can only scratch that itch so much. Being away from family and friends is the hardest part."
"There's a lot to learn culturally from the guys," said Crawshaw. "Sometimes I still need a translator for like some of the guys on this team. Because they'll say something to me, and I'll just look at ‘em like, ’Mate, you gotta speak English to me. I don't know, understand what you're talking about!' But you know I love to mess around with them, you know put accents on, try to sound American."
Language difficulties aside, there are plenty of things that translate across sports.
"It's like the core building block of any good team, is like that team bond that you have," said Crawshaw.
And when things do get tough, these Aussies will stick together and lean on each other.
"We talk about things we struggle with and things we have fun with," said McCarthy. "So that network, and I've said this before how important that network is. When things get hard, that's who you turn to."
There are a handful of Aussies who punt in the NFL, which is where both McCarthy and Crawshaw say they'd like to end up.
"I wanna be like a vet for a team," said Crawshaw. "A ten-year guy, you know? Stick around for a while. Just be dependable for the organization."
In the meantime, they want to help their Florida schools win games.