By ADAM BOURKE
From : bendigoadvertiser.com.au
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BENDIGO’S Sam Irwin-Hill is a step closer to realising his NFL dream after being invited to train with the Indianapolis Colts.
The punter will attend a Colts’ training camp this weekend where his kicking skills will be put under the microscope.
Pro Kick Australia coach Nathan Chapman, a Bendigo product who played in the AFL with Brisbane and Hawthorn and spent time with Green Bay in the NFL, said Irwin-Hill deserved his opportunity to impress the Colts.
Irwin-Hill rose to prominence after an impressive two-year stint with the Arkansas Razorbacks at college level.
“With limited spots for punters and kickers on NFL rosters, this is a wonderful opportunity for Sam to get his foot in the door,’’ Chapman said.
The Colts are one of the most powerful clubs in the NFL, having won the Super Bowl in 2007.
Their current punter is Pat McAfee, who made last year’s Pro Bowl.
Irwin-Hill linking with the Colts comes with no guarantees or money.
“Sam can be cut at any stage. The clubs have 53 players on their final roster and they’ll only have one punter,’’ Chapman said.
“Every kick he takes at training will be watched and on camera. You only get paid if you make the 53-man roster and you play a game.
“It’s a long, hard slog to make that team. It’s cut-throat to get that spot on the roster.
“Sam’s biggest thing is to do well at this weekend’s camp, so that the Colts keep him for their pre-season games.
“If he can stay on the roster for pre-season games he will get the opportunity to impress in front of all the NFL scouts.
“He might only get to punt in warm-ups, but that’s your chance to impress the scouts.
“This is a stepping stone for Sam. They say the average time it takes to make an NFL roster is two to three years.
“This is step one for Sam. He has to get over this hurdle and then reassess where he is at and keep grinding away.”
Irwin-Hill played junior football in Bendigo for Eaglehawk and played with the Bendigo Pioneers at TAC Cup level.
After graduating from the Pioneers he turned his attention to American football and joined Pro Kick.
Under Chapman’s guidance he earned a scholarship to a community college in San Francisco.
After two impressive seasons in San Francisco, Irwin-Hill transferred to Arkansas where he competed in the SEC conference, arguably the premier college football division in the US.
Meanwhile, Chapman will be in Bendigo next Monday to assess the credentials of more central Victorian athletes with dreams of playing college football.
Chapman will run a punting assessment session at the Tom Flood Sports Centre between 4-8pm on May 11. Cost is $50. For more details e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org