Contributed by: Wesley Hull
Nik Constantinou has a dream. He wants to be a punter in American football, and is well on the road to that dream.
We see a great deal written about the journey other “cross coders” have made in leaving their homes overseas to try their hand at Australian Rules football after having played a range of sports including Gaelic Football, soccer, basketball and many more. We have also read about the drive to do so and the reasons behind the attraction.
But we rarely, by comparison, read about the motivation of Australians who do the reverse: leave behind a life in Australian Rules football to go to the United States of America to give punting a go in American Football (Gridiron – maybe NFL).
Nik has shared some of his insights into a journey he has commenced to chase a relatively new dream – but a dream just the same.
If he can gain selection with a college football team in the USA, he can do so by pursuing a degree that he believes is valuable regardless of how far he gets with his punting. “I’ll go to the USA and give it [NFL] a go. There is a big future there.”
Nik started playing footy at Under 10’s with Aberfeldie in the Essendon District Football League in Melbourne (EDFL). He played most of his junior footy there, apart from two seasons at Doutta Stars in the same league. At the same time he was playing footy at Penleigh & Essendon Grammar (PEGS) School. It was here that he met his teacher, Michael Gallus (Footys4all and CrossCoders coach) who was one of the people who got in Nik’s ear about NFL punting.
A good footballer, tall and strong, Nik was playing for the PEGS Old Boys team when his father mentioned that Prokick scouts were about scouting for potential NFL or college football punters. “I had won the league best and fairest and we had just lost the grand final. Dad mentioned the trial and I said ‘what trial’ and dad told me about the Prokick assessment opportunity.”
Between his father and Michael Gallus’ influence, Nick tried out. “The Prokick program was run by the coaches Nathan Chapman and John Smith. They just told me to try a normal footy kick.” At the suggestion of a future in the game based on his kicking, Nik “took a while to think about it, but then I thought there was nothing to lose. The worst that could happen is a free degree [but I could end up] playing in the biggest sport in the USA.”
Nik admits that of all the fellow players who tried out with Prokick, he was one of the only players who went not already knowing about the game. Many of the others wanted to make it their career choice. “I rocked up and gave it a go. I knew the fundamentals [which helped]. After a month I had learned a lot about the game and had learned to love it.”
The next step in the journey for Nik is to head to the USA in July. He must train every day and keep his university grades up to a high standard – a requirement and expectation of college teams – and from there go through the more formal try-out processes.
It will be hard work, but the rewards could be enormous. Nik admits that floating around somewhere in the back of his mind is the thought of playing American Football in front of crowds regularly in excess of 100 000 people. Buried further in his psyche is the thought of the Super Bowl.
Former VFL players like “Diamond” Jim Tilbrook, Saverio Rocca, Ben Graham and more recently Ben Lennon and Ben Griffiths have turned from the AFL to the NFL and enjoyed careers of varying degrees of success. However, it is interesting to see that younger players who haven’t yet reached AFL level are considering their options to switch from Aussie Rules to American Football.
Nik has an enormous journey ahead, but he has the talent and the drive to blaze a train that others can follow, no matter where they are on their own Aussie Rules journey.
It will be interesting to hear how he goes from here in his quest to cross codes and pursue a future far removed from his childhood days of supporting Hawthorn.
Picture: Nik Constantinou with Michael Gallus
World Footy News