NFL: How one school in Melbourne, Australia is reshaping gridiron

    Punter Michael Dickson in action for the Texas Longhorns against the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

    Story highlights

    • 65 Pro Kick punters are playing in NCAA Division I
    • Seattle Seahawks rookie is Pro Kick grad

    (CNN)When Australian punting coach Nathan Chapman looks back at his workout video for the Denver Broncos, he squirms.

    "It makes me want to vomit," he bluntly says of a moment that marked his short NFL preseason stint in 2004. "To think I was just kicking a ball without any technical knowledge at all."
      Things have come a long way since then.
      Largely thanks to Chapman's Pro Kick Australia school, founded on the lessons he learned as an NFL hopeful, the country is cranking out punters to major US college programs and infiltrating the pros.
      No fewer than 65 Pro Kick graduates will suit up for Division I schools this year, according to Chapman, and three are likely to stick on NFL rosters.
      They include Seattle Seahawks rookie Michael Dickson, who skipped his senior season at Texas after winning the Ray Guy Award, given to college football's top punter.
      Like most other Pro Kick students -- and like Chapman himself -- Dickson played Australian rules football and had little understanding of the sport the Aussies call "gridiron."
      No matter. After a brief tryout -- which he attended on a whim with friend Oscar Bradburn, now with Virginia Tech -- Dickson enrolled in Pro Kick in March 2015.
      By September, he was booming punt after punt for the Texas Longhorns in front of more than 80,000 at Notre Dame.
      "I never really watched a full game of American football until I played my first game against Notre Dame," Dickson recently admitted to the Seattle Times. "It took me two years to really fully understand (the rules)."
      Dickson's talents shone in a win at the Texas Bowl in December, when he landed 10 punts inside Missouri's 20-yard line and walked away as the game's MVP.
      Texas coach Tom Herman said he had never seen a punter affect a game that way.
      Dickson accepted the MVP award for his performance at the Texas Bowl in December. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round.
      "That's what we try to do," says Chapman. "We feel like our duty is to bring attention back to the punting game so that coaches realize, hey, if we've got a good one, we can attack more,"
      Dickson will likely be joined in the NFL this season by fellow Pro Kick alumnus Jordan Berry of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cameron Johnson of the Philadelphia Eagles.
      Another Aussie rules convert Lachlan Edwards punts for the New York Jets, while compatriot Brad Wing is looking for a call up after three seasons with the New York Giants.
      "Three to five Australians out of 32 (NFL teams) is not a bad ratio," says Chapman.
      Waiting in the wings are about a dozen Pro Kick punters in the Pac-12 Conference -- where the speedy game suits Australian punters who are mobile, says Chapman -- and others in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and Big Ten Conference
      As a result, American football is rapidly catching up with basketball as a sport where Australians are thriving in the US. Last year, 70 Aussies played Division I basketball, while another seven were on NBA rosters -- including Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons.
      Chapman is pictured coaching Dickson.

      'We have a million punters'

      In Australian rules football players score by kicking a oval ball between goalposts, often at long distances while on the run. The sport's unique skill set makes it a breeding ground for Pro Kick.
      "When it comes to punting, we have a million punters," says Chapman, who earned his own shot with the Green Bay Packers after his eight-year career in Aussie rules ended.
      Chapman was cut the week before the 2004 regular season, largely due to inexperience. "If I had known what the coaches actually wanted, I could have tied my kicking pursuit with (that) rather than just kicking blindly and wildly," he says.
      He also didn't understand the business side of things.
      The Packers used a third-round pick on Ohio State punter B. J. Sander, making it unlikely an unproven lad from Down Under would crack the roster, he says.