Chapman Focuses On NFL After Giving Australian Football The Boot


The road to the NFL can be described with many words but perhaps none is more fitting than 'unpredictable.'

Some players leave college too early, others decide to go the Arena Football League route and some even play football in Australia before they give the NFL a shot.

Wait, what was that last part?

Yes, although unconventional and very uncommon, the Australian route to the NFL is not unprecedented. Just ask Green Bay Packers punter Nathan Chapman.

Chapman, the Australian born punter, is trying to earn a roster spot while competing in his first ever NFL training camp. He previously played American club football for one season in his native Australia. However, Chapman isn't totally new to football and being an athlete. He also played Australian Rules Football in his previous professional career.

It's not that Chapman, who is 29 years old, didn't enjoy playing in Australia, but he knew that time was running out on his quest to play professional football in the United States.

"I thought I was at an age where if I am going to do it, I am going to do it now," Chapman said. "I stuck at it and I will just get better everyday."

Chapman will indeed have to get better in order to find himself in a Green Bay uniform this fall. After all, the odds are against him with the Packers investing so much in rookie punter B.J. Sander. The team selected Sander, who played collegiately for Ohio State, in the third round and it's essentially his job to lose. Yet that doesn't concern Chapman.

"I'm not here to be on the practice squad," Chapman insisted. "I don't see it as 'OK, let's see how close I can come to making it.'

"I have goals and ambitions. My goal is to play professional football and be a starting punter. I want to keep getting better and see where it leads."

As unique as this experience is for Chapman, he knows that punting in the NFL is possible after watching fellow Australian Darren Bennett attain a successful career in the league.

Bennett is entering his 10th year in the NFL, his first with the Minnesota Vikings after playing the previous nine with the San Diego Chargers. According to Chapman, it was Bennett's idea to give the NFL a try.

"Darren was the first person to suggest doing it," Chapman said. "I had it in the back of my mind because I loved the game and I wanted to do it. But actually talking to him is what got the ball rolling."

Chapman wanted to pursue the idea a little further and he sent a highlight tape to the Packers' director of scouting John Dorsey. Just as he was about to leave for a kicking camp in Nevada, the Packers called and arranged a workout. Chapman flew to Green Bay and, after impressing them with his original workout, has been here ever since.

He does admit that both the lifestyle and the football aspect have been an adjustment.

"In Australia, we found that the end over end kick is more effective," Chapman said. "We can do a similar punt kick, but in Australia it is used very rarely. The ball shape is a little different as well. That's why it's considered less accurate.

"The transition has been pretty wild. I have been practicing kicking the ball for about three years, so it has taken me a long time. I am just trying to get as much control of the ball as I can and kick it in the direction we need it."

Special teams coach John Bonamego said that Chapman is making strides, but that there is a great deal of work yet to be done.

"It's still too early to tell, but he is working hard," Bonamego said. "He is a guy who improves every single day he is out here. When you talk about a guy who hasn't had many punts behind a protection, it's him."

Even if Chapman doesn't make the team, surely all of his family and friends will be proud to watch him on Monday Night Football next week right?

Well, not exactly.

"I probably won't tell too many people," Chapman said. "I will talk to my family and parents and tell them they can watch it on TV. Actually until the day I signed with the Packers, no one even knew that I came across here (to the United States).

"I didn't want to publicize it and I'm not a guy who blows my horn or anything like that. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I just wanted to do my job."

If Chapman does well and makes the Packers roster, his 'job' will no longer be a secret to anyone.

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