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Australian punter Jake Ford was selected first overall in the Canadian Football League Global Draft by the BC Lions, one of four Australian kickers selected in the first round and six in the draft overall.
Ford said as the influence of Canadian and American football grows in Australia, he could see more players trading in Australian Rules football for the three- and four-down variety.
“Back home we grow up playing Aussie Rules and I think the NFL and CFL and college football all those things are becoming a lot more aware,” Ford said Thursday after the Global Draft.,
“As time goes on you’re probably going to see a lot more Australians coming over and playing in the bigger leagues like the CFL, NFL, and XFL.”
The 28-year-old said once his Aussie Rules football career plateaued, he tried out his big leg punting footballs.
“I played Australian Rules football growing up and I was lucky enough to play that at the top level. Not being able to have that consistency, I sort of stopped playing and I always had a big kick and that transition into punting, I got hooked up with Prokick Australia. Here I am now.”
Prokick Australia has been around since 2007, with their stated goal being to help guide and transition Australian athletes experienced with Aussie Rules, to the American and Canadian game where they can perform at the college and professional level. Their website boasts having secured 75 contracts or scholarships in the United States and five Ray Guy Awards, given annually to the NCAA’s top punter.
“We have the big academy back home Prokick Australia and those guys basically coming out of high school and some older guys who want to get an education learn to kick and train. And then John Smith and Nathan Chapman, who run Pro Kick Australia, they put us in colleges in America … They’re sort of the front runners in starting that movement back home and it’s growing.”
Ford played collegiately at Ouauchita Baptist University, helping them to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons and the 2019 Great American Conference championship, and also suited up in the Spring League last year.
Ford said he’s excited to get to Canada and play with the Lions. He’s been studying the Canadian game and said he feels prepared for the opportunity.
“I watched a lot of CFL. I watched a lot of [fellow Australian] Josh Bartel, Ty Long, Richie Leone, and Rob Maver, a lot of those guys. Just seeing how they play and obviously it’s a different game. I was a little more focused on special teams … I have a bit of knowledge on and I’m excited to get up there and play.
Other Australian punters selected in Thursday’s CFL Global Draft included Joseph Zema, (sixth overall, Montreal Alouettes), Cody Grace (seventh overall, Calgary Stampeders), Joel Whitford (eighth overall, Hamilton Tiger-Cats), Max Duffy (30th overall, Toronto Argonauts), and Arryn Siposs (33rd overall, Winnipeg Blue Bombers).