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In a way, Bradley Porcellato’s journey from Melbourne, Australia to Birmingham, Alabama traveled through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Charlottesville, Virginia.

We’ll let Porcellato, a senior All-Southern Conference punter at Samford University, connect those dots.

“We’ve always loved the NFL. As a family, we’re big Philadelphia Eagles supporters,” Porcellato said. “My dad came over here and went to a college game. I was about 16. He said I think you can do that. I played Australian Rules Football my whole life m, and I’ve been kicking a football out of my hands since I was like three years old. I sort of had skills already.”

That doesn’t fully clear things up.

“They used to show a Monday night football game in Australia, one game a week back in the 80s or whatever,” Porcellato said. “Randall Cunningham was playing [for the Eagles]. It was one of the first games my Dad ever watched. He picked the Eagles just because Randall Cunningham was running around. Growing up, I started watching the games with him. The college game, I think, he watched the Virginia Cavaliers game, because that’s where he was [on business]. They might have been playing North Carolina.”

And there you have the beginning of Porcellato’s journey from a lifetime playing Australian Rules Football to becoming a fixture in the Samford lineup as the Bulldogs’ punter.

It’s no longer a novelty for an American college football team to employ an Australian as a punter or kicker. For example, South Alabama’s Jack Brooks and Jacksonville State’s Jack Dawson are natives of Australia. Many others are scattered through the country. Most have similar stories to Porcellato.

Porcellato played Aussie Rules Football for the Knox Falcons while attending Aquinas College High in a Melbourne suburb. After graduation, he decided to work toward coming to the U.S. to play college football. He trained with ProKick Australia and waited for an opportunity. According to their website, ProKick Australia has placed 185 kickers in U.S. colleges with 95% on full scholarships.

The scholarship offer eventually came for Porcellato, but not until he made the adjustment to a different style of kicking.

“It was actually really difficult,” Porcellato said. “I probably underestimated how challenging it would be to go from kicking an Australian football to an American football. The American football is designed to throw, not kick. It’s clunky. The sweet spot to kick a spiral is a lot smaller than an Australian football. It was more difficult than I thought it would be. Practicing over time, I got the hang of it.”

It took him about 18 months before the first scholarship offer came.

“When I was training in Australia, I would think about where could I possibly go,” Porcellato said. “You sort of think about East Coast and West Coast, because you know those places. I really didn’t know anything about the South, and I definitely didn’t know anything about Alabama. I was a little bit disappointed when I was first told the school is in Alabama, because that’s not really what I was thinking.”

Porcellato and his father went to the internet to find out information about Samford. They came across a video of Samford head coach Chris Hatcher, a Macon, Georgia native with a pronounced Southern accent.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, I haven’t heard anyone talk like him before. This is pretty awesome,’” Porcellato said.

Porcellato said the beauty of Samford’s campus made him feel at home immediately upon his arrival in the summer of 2018. However, the early days were still tough.

“I remember my first night, I was in my dorm, I was in the room by myself,” Porcellato said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is a bit scary. Everyone I know in my life is on the other side of the world.’ I didn’t know anyone here, so the first night really hit me.”

He made friends quickly and further learned how to play American football. He was accustomed to kicking on the run while moving to either the right or left. He was accustomed to getting hit while kicking the ball. He had to learn how to kick behind a shield of teammates but the style of kicking was more simplistic.

Porcellato thrived at Samford. He has been the team’s main punter for four seasons, including the spring season in 2021. His best season, statistically, came as a sophomore in 2019 when he averaged 40.2 yards per punt. He enters this season as an All-Southern Conference preseason second-team selection as a punter.

Before all that, though, he had to learn something far simpler. He had to learn how to get dressed.

“I never put on a little girdle pad in my life,” said Porcellato, who will graduate in December with a degree in finance and management. “I didn’t know how to do the belt. I used to practice back in Australia with a helmet, but I didn’t have pads. I was sort of just winging it, looking at other people, seeing what they were doing. I think the first time I had to put it on was photo day. It was good that I had that because on game day, it was easy to figure out.”

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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