Two years in the American colllege football system was all it took for James Smith to realise his dream to make it as a punter in the National Football League could be possible.
The former Wangaratta Rovers player signed a contract with NFL club Tennessee Titans this week, but it was a standout sophomore (second) year with Cincinnati Bearcats that put his name up in lights.
Smith was named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2018 as the best punter in college football and began to receive more attention as a draft prospect.
He nervously watched the NFL Draft this week and the Titans came through.
The enormity of what he had achieved took a little while to sink in.
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"The whole weekend was just a roller-coaster of emotions, and, when I got the call from the Titans after the draft, it was as if a huge weight had been lifted," Smith said.
"It was a weird feeling, I was sort of numb to it all at the beginning and was very quiet with my girlfriend and her family.
"But after it all sunk in, it was a big celebration, because it's not every day you accept an NFL contract."
Australian rules footballers have had a proud history of becoming NFL punters with ex-West Coast and Melbourne forward Darren Bennett, former Geelong captain Ben Graham and Collingwood and North Melbourne sharp shooter Sav Rocca among those to make it.
Smith said he looks up to the host of Australian punters in the NFL in Mitch Wishnowsky, Cam Johnston, Jordan Berry, and Michael Dickson, who have taken a similar path to him.
The whole weekend was just a roller-coaster of emotions, and, when I got the call from the Titans after the draft, it was as if a huge weight had been lifted.James Smith
"They have all come through the Prokick Australia program and have been a great support network for myself along this whole crazy journey," Smith said.
"There has also been a tremendous amount of support from everyone back home.
"The constant support I have had from family and friends makes being 15,000 kilometres away from home a little easier."
Smith said he still keeps a close eye on his beloved Wangaratta Rovers from afar.
"When it's something that was so engrained into my lifestyle, it's hard not to miss it," he said.
"Especially when the boys are up and about now playing some great footy in a really even competition from the looks of it."
The NFL season is set to commence on September 9.
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