Nothing can stop Ohio State from getting what seems like one “BOOM!” per week—not even 11,600 miles and a 12-hour time difference between them and their most recent commitment.
Jesse Mirco, a 23-year-old Australia rules football player and Prokick Australia punter from Fremantle, a port city in Perth, Western Australia, has committed to Ohio State for the 2021 season.
Mirco’s official visit is planned for October (if the season goes ahead), and it will be the first time he has ever stepped foot in Ohio. But don’t let that and the proximity of his hometown fool you—he knows what it means to be a Buckeye.
“It’s the biggest program in the country,” Mirco told LGHL. “I didn’t know if it was a realistic chance to (play there) so it was a bit of a shock when I first found out that, yeah, that was a possibility. And, since then, it still feels a bit like a dream to be honest.”
A dream made possible by Prokick Australia coaches Nathan Chapman and John Smith.
Located in Melbourne, Prokick Australia has served as a college football punter factory for the last several years. Chapman and Smith developed the program in 2007 to help transition Australian rules football players, rugby players, and other Australian athletes into American-style punters who can perform at a college or even NFL level.
Chapman and Smith have helped 135 punters/kickers earn $36 million worth of scholarships to play at schools across all three divisions, six of which have earned the Ray Guy award (presented annually to college football’s most outstanding punter) and over seventeen of which have earned All-American honors.
The program consistently produces some of the nation’s top-ranked punters, which is likely why Ohio State’s special teams coach Matt Barnes reached out to see what they had in store. Not to mention, the Prokick duo is also responsible for former Ohio State punter and Ray Guy finalist Cameron Johnston, so they already had a pretty good track record with the school to begin with.
“Ohio state has been such a special place for us since we had the great Cameron Johnston there, and to be able to put another student there is amazing,” Chapman told LGHL. “Micro (Chapman’s nickname for Mirco due to a typo) has a great personality for punting and a really strong leg, so factor that with being able to do a range of different kicks, I know the Buckeyes are in good hands after their current superstar punter, Drue, graduates.”
After seven years of near-perfect punting by Johnston and current punter Drue Chrisman, the position holds high expectations in Columbus, but Chapman and Smith are certain that there’s no one better equipped for the job than Mirco.
“I haven’t really spoken to any other school,” Mirco said. “Chappy and Johnny basically have a plan pretty early on, I think, for where they want blokes to go, what schools suit which guys. Ohio State was basically the first school I’ve spoken to and I wouldn’t want to speak to any other school now.”
And here’s the kicker (pun very much intended): Mirco has only been with Prokick Australia for four months.
Four (!) months (!) to not only learn how to punt American-style but to also earn a scholarship for his aforementioned new skill to one of the best football programs in the nation. Talk about a New Years resolution.
“I came over to the states on holiday at the end of last year and went and watched a game at Kentucky with one of my best mates, (UK punter and 2019 Ray Guy award winner) Max Duffy, which was pretty awesome,” Mirco said. “I went and watched a few NFL games while I was over as well, and I’ve always enjoyed the sport, but never really understood or knew if I could do it. So I thought, ‘well, I might as well give this a go.’”
Mirco got to work as soon as he landed back in Perth. He started by reaching out to a Perth-based punting coach, Tyson Beattie, who punted for the Indiana Hoosiers from 2003-2006.
“I did a little assessment with Tys and then he sent some footage off to Chap and Johnny,” Mirco said. “They gave me a call the next morning and said ‘Can you move to Melbourne as soon as possible?’”
At the start of January, Mirco found himself in Melbourne—about 1,600 miles away from home— as a student of Prokick, learning everything there is to know about American football, what to expect inside the walls of a collegiate football program, and of course, how to punt with the best of them.
“Micro came to us ready to work,” Chapman said. “He trained hard and listened with intent, so once we really got into the punting, we knew he was going to have a special leg and talent for it.”
Mirco credited his fast progression to Chapman’s coaching, saying no matter what it is, whether his punts aren’t coming off right, his get-off time is slow or his power isn’t there—Chapman tweaks one thing and suddenly everything goes back to normal.
“At the start of December, I didn’t know how to kick a ball and now, it’s April, and while I’m still working on consistency and whatnot, I definitely came a long way in a short time,” Mirco said.
And now he’s being actively recruited by Ohio State’s special teams coordinator Matt Barnes. He also “met” head coach Ryan Day, head strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti and director of player personnel Mark Pantoni on a video chat last week.
“I’m probably not a massive target for them considering I’m a no-star punter from Australia, but yeah, we it sorted out,” Mirco said. “They probably have bigger focuses over there at the moment and this Covid-19 stuff doesn’t help either, so its mainly just been Barnes (staying in contact).”
If, by the grace of the heavens above, all goes to plan and we do in fact have a football season, Mirco will pack up his life and move 11,000+ miles to Columbus, Ohio to begin his college football career at the start of January 2021. In the mean time, he will stay in Melbourne, learning, training and improving with Prokick Australia. If four months got him this far, imagine what eight more can do.
“I’m just excited to be in such a big atmosphere and massive stadium with lots of fans, Mirco said. “I couldn’t imagine life without sport. It’s pretty hard at the moment. And obviously being at Ohio State with such a successful team and, from what I’ve been seeing, the recruiting class going forward, it looks like it’s apparently one of the best they’ve had in a while, which is exciting. Everyone at Ohio State wants to win and I hate losing, so I’ll be trying to do everything I can to win.”
He’s gonna fit in well.