NOT JUST A PUNT
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.”
Seattle‘s Michael Dickson has proved himself more than just a punter in his debut NFL season.