Aussie NFL invasion reaches new high
NOT since the heady days of Darren Bennett, Ben Graham, Matt McBriar and Saverio Rocca have Australians been so prevalent in the NFL.
The American football pre-season kicks off today and a core of hard-working Aussies are making a name for themselves in the most watched sports league in the world with many more coming through the college system.
Geelong's Cam Johnston and former NRL youngster Jordan Mailata are on the books at reigning SuperBowl champions Philadelphia Eagles while Michael Dickson was drafted by Seattle this year.
Adam Gotsis is set to be a key part of Denver's defence this year and fellow Victorians Jordan Berry and Lachie Edwards are first choice punters at Pittsburgh and New York Jets respectively.
Long time punter Brad Wing lost his job at the New York Giants as the franchise made sweeping changes following a disastrous 2017-18 season.
Bennett is the godfather of Australian punting, the former Melbourne and West Coast forward, forging a path since making the move to San Diego Chargers in 1994.
The NFL 1990s Team of the Decade punter was excited by this year's crop of Australians.
"Philadelphia have been super impressed with Cam Johnston, they brought him back this year and basically handed him the job," he told the Herald Sun from his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"It's a great tip of the hat for Cam.
"Lachie Edwards is the unsung hero, he didn't come through the AFL or the academy, and I think he's the best out of all of them.
"He's going to introduce a lot of new punts this year, which will surprise a lot of people.
"Michael (Dickson) was brought in as competition for (Seattle punter) Jon Ryan but they're very impressed with him and I think it's the perfect place for him."
Gotsis cemented his place on Denver's defensive line last season, starting 13 of 16 games, making 41 tackles and two sacks.
Mailata was drafted by the Eagles with the No.233 pick in this year's NFL draft and has been on a steep learning curve at offensive tackle, one of the hardest positions in the game.
"It's frustrating when you know what to do, and in the heat of the moment, you just forget what to do," Mailata told the Philly Voice.
"They keep telling me Rome wasn't built in a day, but I'm a perfectionist ... I was swimming in the deep end but I learn faster (that way)."
Bennett is equally excited about the next wave of Australians coming through the NCAA college system, headlined by 2016 Ray Guy Award (best college punter) Mitch Wishnowsky.
"The drop punt is a part of the pro game but not as big as in college ... Australians are starting to change the game," he said.
"Until American punters can revolutionise the game, I see Australian punters dominating the (college) game for years to come."