Victorian country giant James Smith has a “real shot” to become the next Australian punter in the NFL after signing a deal with the Tennessee Titans.
The 27-year-old from Wangaratta was signed as a free agent after the end of the NFL draft, having spent the past four years punting for the University of Cincinnati.
Smith, who is 195cm and more than 105kg, goes to the Titans for a pre-season challenge where he’ll contend with veteran Brett Kern for a spot on the roster.
Nathan Chapman, head of Prokick Australia where Smith trained for 12 months before getting his scholarship at Cincinnati, said the “big lad” had the leg to give it a real shot.
“He’ll be competing against a 10-year veteran, but he’s been given the chance because he showed in his college career what he could do,” Chapman said.
“It’s a great opportunity and he had all the right stats in all the right areas to get his chance.
“He spoke to four or five clubs but, as always, nothing is ever guaranteed.
“But he’s a real big lad with a real big kick and he’s got the leg to be able to do it.”
There are five Australians punting for NFL teams, including former AFL player Arryn Siposs who is at the Philadelphia Eagles.
Exciting times ahead! Pleased to announce I have signed a with the Tennessee Titans! #TitanUppic.twitter.com/l01JHN079O
Cincinnati ➡️ Nashville
Congrats, @_JamesSmith37! #BearcatsInTheNFL | @Titanspic.twitter.com/tAkfeJXhc0
Another Prokick graduate, Oscan Bradburn, a star with the Virginia Tech, has also been invited to a mini-camp with the Minnesota Vikings.
Chapman said Smith, a big-kicking left-footer, would have to do “everything right” but that getting to play any pre-season games could be advantageous even if he’s not successful with the Titans.
“You are basically auditioning for every other NFL team if you play any of the pre-season matches,” he said.
“A lot has to happen between now and then, but he’s signed and he has the chance, and I think he’s got all the attributes to make the most of this opportunity.”
“He’s a guy who is going to have a real go at it.”
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