When Melbourne rookie Cameron Johnston was delisted by the Demons following his first season at the club in 2011, it seemed unlikely he’d ever achieve the things most players dream of when they start a football career.
Playing in front of 100,000 spectators in the biggest game of the year, being relied upon to take the important kicks and having an opportunity to go home with the big prize – these opportunities seemed a million miles away. As it turned out, those dreams weren’t as far away as he thought – just under 10,000 miles away, to be more specific – and in a few days Johnston will be taking the big kicks in the biggest game of the season, albeit in a different football code to the one he grew up playing.
“Our home stadium averaged 105,000 per game this year” – Cameron Johnston
For two years Johnston has been the punter for Ohio State University in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association in America). On Tuesday (Eastern Australia Time), Johnston and his Ohio State teammates will line up against Oregon in the CFP (College Football Playoff) National Championship game. While there’ll be plenty of eyes on the final game of the season, Johnston is well-versed in playing in front of big crowds.
“Our home stadium averaged 105,000 per game this year,” Johnston told SEN 1116’s Morning Glory earlier this week.
“To be able to run out with that kind of atmosphere is a pretty good thing.”
To reach the CFP National Championship, Johnston’s side had to upset Alabama – the highest ranked team in the league – in the Sugar Bowl last week.
“The Sugar Bowl had 28 million [TV] viewers. It’s a massive thing and I didn’t really grasp it until I moved over here.”
Like many Australians who’ve enjoyed successful punting careers in the US, Johnston earned his chance after training with Nathan Chapman from ProKick Australia.
“I got in touch with Nathan Chapman at ProKick Australia and went for a trial with him and then did his program for eight to ten months. Then Ohio State put me on an official visit – they flew me over – and about two months after that I was here in America. That was about two years ago.”
While Johnston clearly had the talent required to make it in the American college system, he believes many others are capable of making the transition from AFL to American Football.
“Many kids in Australia could do this thing,” he insists.
“The biggest thing is you’ve got to give it a go. I always thought about it as an option but never took it too seriously until I went down with Nathan at ProKick Australia. I haven’t looked back since. People have just got to give it a chance and see if they’ve got what it takes.”
Other former AFL players who’ve pursued punting careers include former Brisbane and Port Adelaide player Scott Harding, former GWS player Josh Growden and former Hawthorn and Brisbane player (and ProKick Australia founder) Nathan Chapman.
You can hear Johnston’s interview with Morning Glory in full, below.