49ers grant Aussie Mitch’s NFL Wish
Another Down Under punter will get his chance in the big time after the San Francisco 49ers picked Aussie rules convert Mitch Wishnowsky in the NFL draft.
Forced to give up his AFL dream after recurring shoulder injuries, the Perth native went from working as a glazier to becoming the best punter in college football, impressing the Niners enough to take the unusual step of using a fourth-round pick (No.110).
"You think punters normally get taken, like it sort of starts in the fifth," the 27-year-old said in a conference call after the draft.
"I was hoping it would be San Fran. I think San Fran were about two picks away, and I got a call, and I was like, 'What? You are kidding me.' Unbelievable."
The 2016 Ray Guy Award winner got his grounding with punting factory ProKick Australia after he was noticed playing non-contact American football with mates.
"I had two operations on my left shoulder, which sort of took me out of the action in the Aussie rules football," he said.
"And then I sort of, just for fun, would go down and play flag American football with a couple of my mates at a park.
"(I) basically was seen there punting and messing around by a guy called Craig Wilson, who knows Nathan Chapman and John Smith at ProKick Australia.
"Then a few months later I was out fishing and got a call from John, and John told me he would change my life, send me to America, all that good stuff.
"I went home, told my folks that John Smith is going to send me to America, and they thought I was smoking something.
"I ended up just handing in my resignation at work, moving to Melbourne for a year to train and learn the standard two-punt spiral, because we sort of learned to punt on the run in Australian football.
"Yeah, moved to Santa Barbara to junior college, played one year, did 18 months to finish my AA degree and then went to Utah for three."
An emotional Wishnowsky was greeted by Niners coach Kyle Shanahan and front office staff with an "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi" over the phone.
An All-American in each of his three years at Utah - Wishnowsky follows in the footsteps of a number of Aussies who have made punting their domain in the NFL.
Seattle Seahawk Michael Dickson - a former Sydney Academy prospect and mate of Swans star Isaac Heeney - was the first rookie punter to be named to the NFL Pro Bowl, while Philadelphia's Cam Johnston - once on Melbourne Football Club's list - was not far behind and became a cult figure among Eagles fans.