After 28 games across five seasons for St Kilda, forward Arryn Siposs was delisted at the conclusion of the 2015 season. Now the 27-year-old has nominated for the NFL Draft following a successful stint as a punter with Auburn University in the United States. Siposs spoke to aflplayers.com.au about the transition from Australian Rules to American football, life in college and the process around nominating for the Draft.
Kavisha Di Pietro: After being delisted from St Kilda at the conclusion of the 2015 season, what did your journey look like to then join Auburn in the US?
Arryn Siposs: After St Kilda had delisted me, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to study and become a teacher, but I also knew I wanted to give myself a chance to play AFL again, so I joined the Williamstown Football Club. I thought that being in the VFL would give me the best opportunity to make it back to the AFL. After a season with Williamstown, I didn’t really have much interest from AFL clubs, so I thought perhaps my time was up. Throughout my second season at Williamstown in 2017, I was also considering trying my hand at the NFL. This was something that had been in the back of my mind since I was a teenager as I loved American football and being able to kick was a key skill of mine. I contacted Prokick Australia director and coach Nathan Chapman and he told me to come down for a kick. It went really well and ‘Chappy’ said I had a strong chance to play in a well renowned college football team. I trained with Chappy for only a few months before he had been in contact with a coach from Auburn University. They needed a punter and Chappy thought I was the guy for the job. I trained from September 2017 with Prokick, received my offer from Auburn University by November and went on my official visit in December, before officially moving to the United States in July of 2018.
What type of training did you undertake to transition from Australian Rules football to American football? How did your work with Prokick Australia and Nathan Chapman help prepare you for college?
Transitioning from Australian rules to gridiron had its challenges. Working on kicking a spiral consistently was a different technique, but something I think I adjusted to well. It was always going to take a bit of work and time to get used to as the NFL ball is a different size and slightly different shape when compared to the AFL ball. I trained with Chappy three days a week to work on different types of kicks with an emphasis on kicking a good spiral. He did a great job in preparing me and making sure I was ready for college.
What skills do you use in the AFL that are transferable to punting in American football?
The drop punt is a skill that we use in both sports. Being an Australian, that’s our advantage when we come here to punt in America. We are able to place it exactly where our coach wants us to put it on the field without thinking about it too much. It is very accurate and adds variety to our punting repertoire.
What did you study while you were at Auburn?
I studied teaching and I am still currently studying now in the lead up to the Draft. I’m looking to be a teacher or coach after my professional sporting career is finished. I believe I have a strong skillset suited to both teaching and coaching and I enjoy working with the younger generation to educate them. I will be completing my degree either part time over here if the NFL works out or when I return home, as it is something I am very passionate about. I previously coached at Brighton Grammar School before moving to America, so I also plan to do my AFL level three coaching course once I return to Australia to make sure I have all the qualifications necessary to coach at the top level if the opportunity arises
Auburn is renowned for being a ‘football school’. What was the college campus like? Were expectations on you and the team high?
The college is beautiful and it is quite picturesque. The school buildings surround Jordan-Hare stadium. You can see the stadium above the buildings, as it is situated right in the middle of the campus and is obviously huge considering it seats 88,000 people. Auburn is filled with plenty of beautiful trees and red brick buildings – I feel like I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to come here. Auburn is very much a football school, so the expectation really is to win every game and when we don’t, the media and supporters definitely have things to say! We always have a tough schedule in the SEC (South Eastern Conference) as it is arguably the best conference in college, but that is just the reality we face, so we still expect to go out there and win a championship. For me personally, it is just about doing my job for the team. I only get five to six opportunities to go on the field and be effective. It’s just about putting the ball in the right area with good hang time so the returner can’t run the ball back effectively. It’s my job to make the returner ‘fair catch’ the ball.
Picture courtesy of Auburn University
We’ve seen a few former players go over to the college system and take up punting. What is it about the opportunity that appeals to players leaving the AFL system?
I think the opportunity to come over and get an education while still playing at an elite level is what makes it so appealing to come over and do what we do. For myself and a few of the other boys, we didn’t quite achieve what we wanted to in the AFL, but we still felt like we had more to give. So coming here and getting the chance to do this, in such a high performance environment, is awesome.
Did you keep in contact with Max Duffy, Ben Griffiths or Ben Lennon (or any other former AFL players now in the college system) while you were over there?
I keep in contact with the guys you mention regularly – constantly if you ask my wife, Rachael! We have group chats to see how everyone is going and always have a bit of humour in there too. I became very close with these guys while we trained, so it’s great to be able to keep in touch. Max had a great year this past season and was the Ray Guy winner as the best punter in college football, so he had an awesome year. I stay in touch with a lot of other guys I went through the Prokick program with as well, so we try to catch up when we get the chance, but always stay in contact.
At what point did you make the decision to nominate for the NFL Draft?
I had been thinking about it for most of the season, but just wanted to see how the season went for me. After the season finished, I continued to have the conversations and discussions needed to weigh up my options and in the end, I just felt like it was the right time to go for it and try to make it in the NFL. There were various factors that contributed to my choice and when I spoke to my coaches here they were supportive of my decision and wished me the best of luck. I am still training at Auburn everyday so I am still working closely with my Strength Coach – they want me to succeed too.
Did you feel you had achieved all you could in the College system?
While I felt like I was able to showcase my individual talent in college, I would have liked to play in a Championship game and win one. For me personally, I did feel I had achieved all that I could. It’s not about winning awards for me (that’s always a bonus)… I just wanted the chance to play at the highest level and help our team be as successful as we possibly could. I feel as though I was able to show my capabilities in the two seasons I played at Auburn.
What was the process like around nominating for the Draft? Once you do nominate you lose your eligibility to College? Did you have to get an agent?
The process to nominate for the draft is not hard. You just go online and put your name in to be Draft eligible and then you get a confirmation back from the NFL to confirm. I do lose the rest of my football eligibility, so I wont be able to play my last season at Auburn if I don’t get drafted, but that is something I had to factor in during this decision-making process and I am OK with that. I do have an agent, I had a few approach me which is always reassuring, as it means they see my talent. My agent has helped guide me through this whole process which has been great. He will continue to help me and speak to teams for me going forward. Teams also remain in touch with a dedicated NFL liaison at Auburn so I get feedback/news from them too.
Being on the other side of the world and away from your family, who did you turn to for support during your decision-making process? I imagine your wife Rachael has been instrumental in supporting you throughout your journey…
My wife has been nothing short of amazing throughout this whole process. She is my family and is the person I have always made my decisions with. Rachael is so supportive of me – even to move over here in the first place and find herself a job in the marketing industry and then get a working Visa. We always weigh up all the possible options together and always have a ‘plan B’. I know she has my back with this decision and we are just going to enjoy this moment and the experience while we can.
How did the AFLPA help you in guiding your decision?
The AFLPA are always great. They supported my decision to come over here and give American Football a shot and I know that if I ever needed advice or help, they would be there for me. The AFLPA is a great resource to have and I feel very fortunate to be able to tap into that.
For other players or individuals who might be considering trying their hand in the College system, what advice would you give to them?
If you think you have the ability to come over and be a punter at the college level in America, then get in contact with Prokick Australia. Nathan Chapman is the best in the business, including in the entire American system. He goes above and beyond to prepare you to come over here and play at your best. Chappy has kept in touch with me constantly while I was at Auburn and now during the draft lead-up. He is a great mentor. My other piece of advice is to not hesitate if you are genuinely interested in this path. I wish I had done it sooner rather than wait for two years after I had been delisted. It is a great opportunity and something you will never forget.
The 2020 NFL Draft will be held between April 23-25 in Paradise, Nevada.