Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry chronicles how an Aussie punter named Brett Thorson found his way into another prized recruiting class at UGA in the 2022 cycle.
Australia punter Brett Thorson committed to Georgia this week. When he did, it was like DawgNation took to flights of fancy. Kind of like a Brett Thorson boot.
Georgia finally joined the Australian punter game. That’s after years of watching other Power 5 programs tout the impressive imports to their kicking game. Thorson’s last name even inspired an early nickname from the fan base, too.
There was one fan who tweeted he’d call him “Thor” after the hero from the “Avengers” movies. It brought a smile to his face.
“With the comments and stuff, you really find out how big this is in America and how big of a thing it is to play for Georgia,” Thorson said.
His coaches regard him as “a physical specimen” who can run fast and also throw the ball very well.
“He’s a well-built athlete so ‘Thor’ would probably work for him,” his ProKick Australia coach Nathan Chapman said. “He’s got tremendous power and a pretty quick leg swing so it looks generally pretty easy for him. So he certainly does pack a punch when he kicks it. Thor might not be a bad one.”
Why look all the way to Australia to find a scholarship punter? That’s the first question here.
Thorson must have Thor’s hammer for a leg if he’s coming to America like many of his countrymen.
As it turns out, he does.
“People are really going to really quickly see that the ball blasts off his foot with a fair amount of speed,” Chapman said. “He’s got quite a long kick. We are going to continue to work on his hang time. To make sure we always want to match up the hang time with the distance. People are going to see the ball is going to pop off his foot pretty well. They are going to be excited by what they have over the next few years.”
His home in Melbourne is roughly 9,800 miles away from the UGA campus. The scouting report on Thorson’s leg is he might only punt the ball slightly shorter distances than that.
“Let’s just say it is not uncommon for him to hit a 65-yard plus ball,” Chapman said. “It pops off his foot well enough for him to casually kick a 60-yarder. Does that make sense? He’s not putting any of all of his effort to it to just scrape out that distance.”
Thorson said his kicks are measured from the line of scrimmage. The actual punt takes flight another 15 yards beyond those yardage totals. That said, this is not just about a guy who can kick it 65 yards.
There are a number of aspiring Australians who can do that.
“Sometimes the game is just to kick it 42 yards with a four-and-a-half second hang time and get that fair caught because that’s what you need,” Chapman said. “What you’ve probably got is a guy who has got a number of tools that you will be able to use really well to get the best result and play that field position game.”
Chapman said Thorson can kick the ball 45 yards with a 5.2 or 5.3-second hang in training. Those stats in games will generally drop to about 4.7 or 4.8 seconds.
“Just nice and comfortable for it and put it where he needs to with the height,” Chapman said.
They train at a higher level in his program. The Aussie standard is not dropping it inside the 20 but within the 8-yard line. His story has a lot to do with smashing all previously expected thresholds for a punter.
Brett Thorson: Getting to know the next scholarship Bulldog
The last time Georgia accepted a commitment from a player who resides 15 hours ahead of local time in Athens was back in well, never. The only parallel is when pass rusher Richard Tardits came from France to be “The Biarritz Blitz” during the 1980s.
That is believed to be the only other known international scholarship player in modern times at UGA.
The dialogue that powers this story is uncommon for any future Bulldog. His coach told DawgNation it was a “pretty cheeky” day in Australia when Thorson made his commitment official.
There was a torrent of more beautiful Australian language like “G’Day” and “mate” and “blokes” in that discussion.
Thorson, who’s already 21, said there’s maybe one stadium in his country that rivals the capacity of the ones he will play in weekly as part of the Southeastern Conference.
But he called it a “ground” with that. It was not a “field” or a “stadium” to him.
When Thorson says the name of his new team, that is different. “Jor-jah” is the way it sounds off his tongue. That’s the first of so many things about a story that feels like an undiscovered country.
- He didn’t even know how to punt in the traditional American style until less than a year ago. His training really started in late May or early June of 2020.
- Georgia assistant coach Todd Hartley was a major factor. Hartley’s connection to the recruiting of Miami punter Lou Hedley was an initial “icebreaker” for both sides.
- Hedley was a Ray Guy Award finalist after averaging 47.3 yards per punt in 2020. Champman does expect Thorson to be a similar-level talent coming into the American game.
- Recruiting a punter from Australia is radically different than in America.
- There is a pipeline to the U.S. from a training group known as ProKick Australia. One of its principal coaches said 170 graduates of their program have gone on to play college football in America. That program is only about 15 years old.
- Chapman estimated there were approximately 60 (!!) ProKick graduates in NCAA Division I football last fall. The number will rise to 75 to 85 for the 2021 season.
- Thorson has been committed to UGA for about two weeks. His family was still waiting this week on a parcel to arrive from America with their first Georgia Bulldog gear.
He’s never been to the United States. If Covid-19 travel standards allow him to travel from Australia and return, he will take an official visit this summer or in the fall.
“If not, I guess it will be my first time in January when I touch down,” Thorson said.
He can carry on a dialogue about college football with ease. Thorson knows Georgia is a power team, one of the nation’s top five programs and the Bulldogs have made a habit of playing in New Year’s Day bowls.
“ProKick students are studying American college football before they get matched up with a team,” he said.
How Australia is setting a new standard for punters
Thorson welcomed several media requests after his UGA commitment.
“I’ve had a few reaching out,” Thorson said. “They are all very confused with the concept of how an Australian ends up in Georgia playing football. That’s quite funny. Trying to explain that has been enjoyable.”
That’s the first real good story here.
Think back to about 25 or 30 years ago with baseball. That’s when the Dominican Republic was a hotbed of talent. The youth there were said to play all day long. If needed, they’d use milk cartons for gloves. Major League clubs would set up academics to mine all that talent.
That’s how a Dominican’s skills were uncommon in amateur scouting circles. That is what is happening in Australia with ProKick. Their Twitter bio lists that their service has secured 150 scholarships to U.S. colleges worth more than $38 million. That number rose to 170 after the class of 2021 was all signed up.
Thorson’s rise is another success story for ProKick Australia.
Australian punters have won the Ray Guy Award six times in the last eight seasons. Check out the ProKick representation among the semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award in 2020. That’s five out of the 10 semifinalists.
— Prokick Australia (@ProkickAus) December 8, 2020
There have been commitments to Georgia, Purdue, Ole Miss, Texas and Western Kentucky in the last few months. James Smith, the terrific punter for Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl, was a ProKick alum.
Look at their 2021 signing class in this tweet below.
Congrats to these guys who signed yesterday. Tomorrow brings a new goal and focus to keep striving towards providing more opportunities to our Prokick Australian students. pic.twitter.com/3lqmAtFWR7
— Prokick Australia (@ProkickAus) December 18, 2020
Smith even used his old Australian football skills to run wide right on a fake punt for a first down against UGA. Max Duffy was Kentucky’s second team ALL-SEC punter last season. He’s from ProKick. The first-team All-Big 10 punter from Iowa? He is another ProKick alum.
If you can only kick one thing, which is it. The ball, the pole or the coach. This is called the “ you better swing straight mate” drill. 😬. pic.twitter.com/f8mG29SX2p
— Prokick Australia (@ProkickAus) January 26, 2021
Chapman said ProKick was well-versed in what UGA was looking for.
“We are trying to replace a really strong senior punter with someone who’s just as capable coming in as a freshman,” he said. “We understand what is leaving and the legacy in [Jake] Camarda and some really good strong punters. We need to present something and you get to know what you know and you like what you like. If you’ve got a punter kicking really well, it is sort of what you get used to. So you’re hoping you don’t have to take too many steps backward to build another player up.”
“We understand that and we try to set our benchmarks to be higher from the start.”
He said they try to make things a “triple win” for all parties.
“That’s a win for the university, a win for the student and a win for the coaches,” he said.
Why are Aussies like Brett Thorson now in demand?
The dream for all boys in Australia is to play in the AFL. That would be the Australian Football League.
“Our native game of Australian rules football has us kicking and punting a ball since we were five years old,” ProKick coach Nathan Chapman said. “So we can do it and there’s the instinct about what we do. Our state where we live in Melbourne, let’s say there are six million people in Melbourne. There are a lot of five, 10 and 15-year old guys who grew up playing Australian rules football who can really kick.”
“They are used to it. There is the ability with some good hand, eye and foot coordination and to place it where they need to. It has been our job to find the elite talent or the guys who fit the college format academically and from an ability point of view and then train them up.”
Thorson explained his view of that.
“That’s the sport I guess we grow up wanting to be good at,” he said. “If you want to be good at the sport you have got to be a good kick. So instead of going to the park and like throwing a football or throwing a baseball with your mate, we go to the park and have a kick of the footy.”
Australian football training sessions for “footy” call for kicking about 80 percent of the time.
“In football where some blokes will be working on speed,” he said. “Others will be working on blocking. Quarterbacks will be working on throwing. With us, well just everyone works on kicking. So that’s how we end up I guess with an advantage. We’ve been doing it for 14 or 15 years before getting to punting and we just translate it to American football.”
The new UGA commit grew up on a dairy farm and had that same AFL dream. That didn’t work out for him. He played in the junior leagues. The best players get drafted at the age of 18. That wasn’t the case for him.
Thorson did two years of higher education and came across ProKick’s program. The ironic thing here is the long game of American football actually provides a higher level of earning potential.
“Cam Johnson signed his contract the other day,” Thorson said. “That’s obviously in U.S. dollars which would convert to more Australian dollars. I think the best Australian rules football player would earn around $1.3 million Australian dollars a year. I’m pretty sure of that. I think Cam Johnson would be [earning] around three million U.S. dollars.”
The actual number was a reported $2.6 million per year annually for Johnson. Yet the point Thorson made there shows he’s not far off his mark.
Why would a guy like Brett Thorson come to America?
The ability to receive a free education in America is another bonus. Thorson said the systems in place in his country equate to an interest-free loan from the government to pay for higher education. The slow payback happens once the student starts earning a certain amount in their career field.
He’s only been training full-time with ProKick since June. That’s even with a few months off because of COVID-19 restrictions. The temptation here might be to label him a natural talent.
That would be incorrect. Doing so would ignore the benefits of an Australian youth playing their version of football. This is a vastly developed skill of kicking employed here.
Cedric Oglesby is one of the top punting and kicking trainers in the Southeast. The Atlanta-based instructor played in the NFL and crossed paths in San Diego with Darren Bennett in 1995. Bennett was the first Australian punter in the NFL. He went on to make the NFL All-Decade team for the 1990s.
He also crossed paths in some American clinics with Chapman, too.
“One of the big things about Australian punters is they are old,” Oglesby said. “The majority of them are in the 20s. An Australian punter is a young man whose body has had time to mature and is in their early-to-mid 20s. We’re talking that grown man strength compared to a kid that is 18 or 19 that is now a freshman in college.”
Aussie rules have trained a better athlete in regard to punting a ball.
“Aussie rules is stuff like punting on the run to punting to a teammate to punting to a target and a lot of different tricks,” Oglesby said. “Banana kicks. They punt the ball end over end to the person on the run. There is a lot of stuff they have brought over to America that has kind of changed the game a little bit. They have forced the American punters to learn their tricks of the trade in order to compete with them.”
Oglesby said American kids typically grow up with baseball, basketball, football or soccer.
“Those kids are learning at five years of age to punt an Aussie rules ball,” he said. “That ball is shaped a little bit differently but that their technique with that ball is they still punt spirals.”
The key difference here is the Australian method benefits punters. Not kickers.
“They don’t have that training to really kick,” Oglesby said. “They punt. They spend more of their time with the ball in their hands. … They are used to having the ball in their hands, running out to space and then hitting the ball way out to a target on a rope. That just translates real easy to what special teams coaches want to happen in a game.”
When Thorson tweeted to announce his commitment to UGA, it was approximately 5 a.m. in Australia.
“I was on the way to the gym,” Thorson said this week. “We had a gym workout to do. So I put the tweet out and went out and did so. We had a boxing session today. So I got punched a few times and went back and the phone had blown up pretty much.”
There’s probably not a better day-in-the-life of an Australian punter story than that.
Brett Thorson: How does an Aussie commit to the G?
The first thing to note here is recruiting is VERY different for an Australian punter. There is a placement assessment for ProKick.
In America, the best punters go to specialized instructors and services. They train for years and then try to apply their skills at special teams camps in the summer.
A school like Georgia will invite the best 10 punters or so on their board. The same goes for kickers. The one who performs the best in the pressure cooker environment with the staff watching gets the offer. That’s if the Bulldogs have a scholarship coming open with the next class for a punter.
This Australian model is completely different. It is more of a matching service. Thorson was not the apple of the eye of a dozen schools. No matter his leg talent. Thorson’s ability and scouting profile were matched with Georgia based on a few criteria.
There are about 50 to 60 aspiring players in the program right now. Georgia only matched with Thorson.
“It is necessarily like best school [and] best leg,” Thorson said. “It is more like this school has this kid’s fit for academics and his leg. The school might want a different kind of punter. They want someone who can roll out better than they can spiral. So that would then translate to a different guy. It is more about the fit than necessarily you have the biggest kick and it will get you to the biggest school.”
There is an early commitment made here.
“With ProKick Australia we only communicate with the one school,” Thorson said. “We kind of respect them for their interest with us and we don’t entertain other offers or send out the film to other schools. We allow them to go through their recruiting choices and decide if they want to take an Australian. But I accepted it straight away. It was about two weeks ago. I just hadn’t announced it yet.”
The Bulldogs were a high-level team set to exhaust the eligibility of senior punter Jake Camarda after the 2021 season. Thorson fit the profile. His intended major in health and sports sciences was also a match.
Hartley was also clutch. He was a big part of the recruitment of Headley to Miami when he was on that staff and in charge of special teams. That built a relationship. Chapman and ProKick knew what he was wanted.
The Georgia assistant knew what he signed in Hedley and there was a trust factor from that previous relationship. He knew to take the recommendations from ProKick and Chapman seriously.
Hartley and Georgia coach Kirby Smart also watched a LOT of his film.
“Late January or early February one of my coaches let me know that Georgia’s coach Hartley liked my film and was interested in more film and having a chat with me,” Thorson said. “So since then, we talked for about two months to finally receive the offer to go there.”
As stated before, that came about two weeks ago. It was after many rounds of film exchange.
“Coach Hartley, he just said I love watching you punt,” Thorson said. “That was obviously good news, but he said just keep sending more film because coach Smart will watch every single ball. He’ll watch every single one. It is enjoyable. Just send as much as you can.”
Thorson said the Georgia coaches called him a “huge talent.” Hedley punts with a different style. He rolls out more for Miami with an Aussie flair to his game, but UGA is a “spiral school” with its philosophy.
“They teach us to hit it well,” Thorson said. “When you do, don’t be all too happy about it. That’s just what you do. That’s your job.”
He wasn’t able to come this fall due to eligibility issues and restrictions dude to COVID-19. He said he “will definitely have three years” of eligibility in Athens. He hopes to add another year due to the limitations placed on him to come over to play in America from Australia due to the global pandemic.
What does it mean to be on his way to play for “Jor-jah” now?
“I can’t really put it into words I guess what it means,” he said. “There’s obviously the initial excitement. The desire to keep working and get better because I know the level I have to be at. But I know I don’t have the appreciation that someone who grew up in Georgia two hours down the road has. Like it is their dream to be here. This is something that has happened in the past year I have planned for. But I can’t be more appreciative of the effort and the time coach Hartley and coach Smart and coach [Scott] Cochran have put into me to allow me to have this opportunity.”
“I know once I get there I will really start to understand it and have a new appreciation of it.”
Thorson will be the Australian import arriving in January of 2022. He’ll have invested another eight more months of specialized training into his game by then.
“Thor” might boom it so high by then it brings raindrops. Or hit it so hard that the pigskin becomes bacon.
(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)
- BREAKING: Australian punter Brett Thorson commits to UGA
- Jordan James: The newest member of “RBU” breaks down why he’s a Bulldog
- BREAKING: 4-star RB Jordan James commits to the G
- WATCH: Jalon Walker breaks down Glenn Schumann’s “drip” and why he chose UGA
- BREAKING: All-American LB Jalon Walker has made his college decision
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- AJ Harris: Guided by his faith, elite CB AJ Harris will not slow play his decision
- Nation’s No. 1 DT Walter Nolen already says UGA will get an official visit
- Under Armour camp: The 11 quick-as-a-hiccup updates for UGA recruiting
- Malaki Starks breaks down his pending Alabama, Clemson or UGA decision
- Kayin Lee: Elite DB prospect breaks down a “dream school” offer from UGA
- Huge recruiting weekend for official visitors lining up for UGA in June
- Tony Mitchell: Nation’s No. 1 CB for 2023 has felt that “home” feeling about UGA
- Nation’s No.1 RB Branson Robinson shares his deep connections to UGA
- De’Nylon Morrissette: Why the elite WR was ready to commit and might still be able to
- Georgia commit Pearce Spurlin III breaks down slick catch and two-sport potential
- Priority target? Gunner Stockton thinks Oscar Delp would be a good roommate
- Why did All-American Jalon Walker say “oh yeah” while discussing UGA in his top 6?
- Priority OL target Tyler Booker is pumped about UGA adding Gunner Stockton
- Malaki Starks: A DawgNation Sunday read on a vital UGA recruiting target
- Amarius Mims: The legacy he left behind on Georgia high school football
- WATCH: 2021 signee Dylan Fairchild wins the 7A state heavyweight wrestling title
- Tre’Quon Fegans: Why Georgia feels like “home” for the top 100 overall prospect
- Big Bear Alexander: When you know this 5-star’s real story, you will be proud
- WATCH: Gunner Stockton’s feet are planted long term; Says he’ll graduate from UGA
- Gunner Stockton: The must-read stories to know on Georgia’s new 5-star QB commit