NOT JUST A PUNT

Herald Sun - - SPORT - BEN HIG­GINS ben.hig­gins@news.com.au

BIG money, bling and over­in­flated egos — Amer­i­can foot­ball is eas­ily cliched.

So how does a young Aus­tralian walk into that en­vi­ron­ment and thrive?

Af­ter a stel­lar col­lege ca­reer, Michael Dick­son en­tered the NFL with huge hype af­ter be­ing drafted in the fifth round, al­most un­heard of for a punter.

He has not only lived up to those ex­pec­ta­tions, he has ex­ceeded them with some re­mark­able dis­plays for the pow­er­house Seat­tle Sea­hawks.

Dick­son was quick to dis­miss the cliches, re­veal­ing a very dif­fer­ent club to the “show me the money” stereo­type.

“You’d be sur­prised how sim­i­lar the hu­mour is and the cul­ture is be­tween Aus­tralia and Amer­ica,” he said.

“There’s a lot of laid-back guys and funny guys as well.

“It’s a pretty big team, so you get a wide ar­ray of char­ac­ters.”

Dick­son couldn’t have wished for a bet­ter team or coach, with the Sea­hawks and Pete Car­roll fa­mous for back­ing play­ers to ex­press them­selves.

That’s ex­actly what Dick­son, 22, did a fort­night ago with a sur­prise run that sealed a cru­cial road win over Detroit.

Lin­ing up to punt from the back of his own end zone, he was meant to waste time be­fore step­ping out of bounds, but saw a gap and backed him­self to sprint 10 yards for a first down in the fi­nal min­utes.

The move not only sur­prised the Li­ons’ de­fence but stunned his own team­mates and coaches. “It was open, and I just went for it,” he said. “It was a great re­ac­tion, ev­ery­one was su­per ex­cited. It caught ev­ery­one off guard — the whole team was slap­ping my hel­met, telling me I was crazy.

“Pete Car­roll was crack­ing up, my spe­cial teams coach was say­ing how crazy I was and thank God I got it.”

Pun­ters aren’t meant to run with the ball, but few have Dick­son’s ath­leti­cism. That came from play­ing footy in Syd­ney’s AFL Academy.

Dick­son played in the Swans NEAFL grand fi­nal side in 2014 be­fore he swapped the Sher­rin for a grid­iron.

“In Aussie rules you ob­vi­ously run the ball a lot, so I’m not too afraid of con­tact,” he said. Dick­son hasn’t for­got­ten his Aussie roots ei­ther, keep­ing a close eye on his beloved Colling­wood and the Swans. “I love see­ing the Swan­nies do well and Isaac Heeney, I al­ways check up how he’s do­ing,” he said. “I’m a Colling­wood sup­porter, so that Grand Fi­nal was a lit­tle tough, but (I’m) also a Swans sup­porter hav­ing come through the Academy.” Dick­son keeps in con­tact with other Aus­tralians in the NFL, par­tic­u­larly fel­low pun­ters Cam John­ston, Lachie Ed­wards and Jor­dan Berry. In Dick­son’s fi­nal sea­son at the Univer­sity of Texas he won the Ray Guy Award as the best punter in col­lege foot­ball and All-Amer­i­can hon­ours be­fore earn­ing the MVP in the Longhorns’ Texas Bowl win over Mis­souri.

He was the punter to win a bowl MVP since 2008.

De­spite his per­for­mances, he can still walk the Seat­tle streets in rel­a­tive anonymity.

“Yeah, thank God. I get a cou­ple of peo­ple ev­ery now and then who come up and say you’re do­ing well, they’re all su­per sup­port­ive here,” he said.

“Ev­ery­one here is very much like a big team — you don’t get treated any dif­fer­ent be­cause you’re a spe­cial­ist.

“We’re all on the mis­sion to win games … there’s no weird in­ter­ac­tions be­tween ev­ery­one, it’s very much like a fam­ily.”

Pic­ture: AFP

Seat­tle‘s Michael Dick­son has proved him­self more than just a punter in his de­but NFL sea­son.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.