Jarryd Hayne has captured most attention but a former Aussie Rules player who was flipping burgers at a Melbourne McDonald’s a year ago will be the first Australian player in action in the NFL season.
Jordan Berry will punt for the Pittsburgh Steelers against reigning Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots in the competition’s season opener on Thursday (Friday 10.30am AEST).
Berry’s story might also make a better Disney feel-good movie than Hayne’s.
The 24-year-old son of Jason Berry, a former skills coach at AFL club Essendon, had a solid career as a punter at the University of Kentucky but couldn’t get a tryout with a single NFL team.
He moved back home with his mum and dad and worked at McDonald’s to save $A10,000 for a trip back to the US to seek an NFL gig.
He scored an invite to try out for the six-time Super Bowl champion Steelers.
But, he was placed in a six-month off-season battle with Brad Wing, another Victorian with an Aussie rules background and who had the advantage of playing for the Steelers the previous year.
Last week Berry won the job and the first call he made was to his dad.
“To go back home, for them to support me for those eight months, to make sure I had somewhere to stay and work, so I could save up some money so I could come back and give it another shot,” Berry told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“It was good to give him a call and let him know I made it.”
Wing didn’t fair too poorly, with the Steelers trading him to the New York Giants.
The Giants open their season on Sunday (Monday AEST) against the Dallas Cowboys.
The San Francisco 49ers continue to be cagey about Hayne’s role in their season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday (Tuesday 12.20 AEST).
The team released their depth chart, but instead of answering questions about whether Hayne would get on the field as a punt returner, kick returner or running back, it remained a great unknown.
For punt returner the chart names “Reggie Bush or Jarryd Hayne, Bruce Ellington” and for kick returner it states “Reggie Bush or Jarryd Hayne, DeAndrew White”.
At running back he appears to be the third pick, with Carlos Hyde first, Reggie Bush second and Mike Davis pushed back to fourth.
Australia appeared set for a record contingent in the NFL this season, but last week the Minnesota Vikings cut offensive lineman David Yankey after a poor pre-season and then placed him on their practice squad.
Brisbane defensive tackle Jesse Williams was hoping to finally play a regular season game for the Seattle Seahawks after two years on the sidelines overcoming knee injuries.
Despite having a cancerous kidney removed just three months ago, Williams played in the pre-season games.
However, the Seahawks placed him on the non-football illness list.
New Zealand running-back Paul Lasike has also had a roller-coaster ride in the pre-season, scoring a touchdown for the Arizona Cardinals, getting cut and then signed to the Chicago Bears’ practice squad.
His US work visa only allowed him to play for the Cardinals, so the Bears released him on Tuesday, although he may return after filing the paperwork for a new visa.