Most Australians grow up watching and playing Australian rules football, rugby league or rugby union, with the best turning professional.
However, there are some athletes that have the skills required for these sports and have instead turned them into an American football career, with some Australians becoming so good they make it all the way to the National Football League (NFL), in America.
There are currently eight Australian players in the NFL for the 2022-23 season, from some of the league’s punters to the biggest offensive lineman the league has ever seen.
Read on as DMARGE breaks down all the Australians who currently play in the NFL.
In this Australian Players in the NFL article.
Jordan Mailata is an offensive tackle who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL.
Originally from Bankstown, New South Wales, Mailata played rugby league growing up and was selected for NRL team the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs’ under-18 side. However, he required surgery to repair his heart, resulting in a hiatus from football.
During this time, he weighed up to a whopping 365 pounds (166 kilograms). After failing to make it playing rugby due to concerns about his weight, he tried out for the NFL’s ‘International Player Pathway program’. Despite barely knowing the rules of the game and lacking technique, scouts noticed how quick and strong he was for his giant frame.
Jordan Mailata was taken with the 233rd pick in the 7th round of the 2018 NFL Draft, making his full NFL debut in 2020. This proved to be a breakout year for Mailata, allowing the fewest sacks of all offensive lineman on the Eagles squad.
He became a starter in 2021, eventually signing a four-year $64 million contract.
From being cut from his rugby team to becoming a starter in the NFL, Jordan Mailtala’s career is a great example of an Australian success story.
Michael Dickson is an American football punter who plays for the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL.
Originally an Aussie rules footballer, Dickson impressed playing for the University of New South Wales and was recruited for the Sydney Swans talent academy.
However, he was overlooked in the 2014 AFL Draft and decided to try his hand at American football, moving to Melbourne to join Prokick Australia, which helps Australian athletes convert to playing gridiron.
Michael Dickson was picked up by the University of Texas, playing there for three seasons. Whilst there, he achieved the ‘Ray Guy Award’, for college football’s most outstanding punter, was a unanimous all-American and was the 2017 Texas Bowl MVP.
Dickson was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round with the No. 149 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. In his rookie year, he became the Seahawks starter and was the first rookie voted into the 2019 Pro Bowl – a tournament for the league’s best players – since 1985.
His career punt average of 47.4 yards per punt is the second-highest average in NFL history.
Alongside Ugg Boots and Vegemite, Michael Dickson might just be one of Australia’s best exports.
Daniel Faalele is an offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL. He was drafted with the No. 110 overall pick in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Standing at whopping six foot eight inches, and weighing 380 pounds (174 kilograms), Faalele is the heaviest player in the entire NFL, and the fifth heaviest player in the history of the league. To put that in perspective, he weighs the same as a baby African elephant!
Originally from Melbourne, he left Australia as a teen after being scouted playing rugby, eventually playing college ball at the University of Minnesota.
In what was only Faalele’s second game of his career in September, he came on for injured offensive tackle Patrick Mekari in a standout win against the New York Patriots. This earned him praise from Ravens’ MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, saying Faalele “stepped up major”.
Many bright things lie ahead for the behemoth that is Daniel Faalele.
Arryn Siposs is an American football punter, who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL.
He originally played Australian rules football, being drafted by St Kilda in 2010 and playing until 2015. A delisting from the Saints as a result of injury did not stop his sports career though, as he decided to make the transition to American Football.
He began training with ProKick Australia, eventually receiving an offer from Auburn University to become the backup punter there.
He went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft but was quickly picked up the Detroit Lions and placed in their practice squad.
He now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, using his AFL background to make some crazy touchdown-saving tackles, rare for a punter.
Mitch Wishnowsky is another gridiron punter, who plays for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. He was drafted with the No. 110 overall pick in round four of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Originally from Western Australia, he also grew up playing Aussie rules, but had to give up the sport at 18 due to repeated shoulder injuries.
He became a glazier, but through his friend heard about ProKick Australia in Melbourne, so decided to travel interstate and give American football a crack.
The University of Utah had previously brought in a ProKick graduate, Tom Hackett, so were open to giving Wishnowky a scholarship to join the university team in 2015, aged 23.
In his first year in Utah, he was awarded the ‘Ray Guy Award’ for college football’s best punter and was also voted as a unanimous All-American.
He was the first of two punters selected in the 2019 NFL draft and reached the Super Bowl as a rookie, punting twice as the 49ers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. He is also the only Australian to score a point in an NFL game, kicking an extra point against the Seattle Seahawks in October 2021.
With all these achievements and the fact that he’s earning $3 million a year, I think it’s fair to sat Wishnowsky was right to make the switch!
Adam Gotsis is a defensive end for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL. He was taken with the No. 63 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
A Melbourne native, whose parents are of Greek Heritage, Gotsis also grew up playing Aussie rules before becoming interested in American football at age 13. He discovered the local gridiron team the Monash Warriors, eventually becoming the league MVP in 2010.
He enrolled at Georgia Tech, playing for the football team for four years before being drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2016 NFL draft. With the 63rd pick, he became the highest-drafted Australian in NFL history.
After becoming a regular starter in the league, he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020.
Will Gotsis help the Jaguars win their first-ever championship? Unlikely, given their two wins and six losses to start the 2022-23 NFL season; still cool to see an Aussie on the team though.
Cameron Johnson is an American Football punter who plays for the Houston Texans in the NFL.
Like many punters in this list, the Geelong native started his career playing Australian rules football, even being drafted by Melbourne Football Club in the 2011 AFL draft. However, he was delisted at the season’s end and did not play much for the senior team.
Johnson is also a product of Prokick Australia, gaining a scholarship to Ohio State University in 2013. Whilst here, he won a national championship with the Buckeyes in 2014 and was awarded the Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year Award in 2016.
He went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, but was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles, making his debut in the 2018 season opener, recording six punts against the Atlanta Falcons.
In 2021, Johnston signed with the Houston Texans, banking big for a punter with a three-year $8 million deal.
To put that in perspective, Johnson is being paid more per year than the highest-paid players in AFL today – not bad for being let go by Melbourne all those years ago.
Local legend Lou Hedley’s living the dream; after six years of living the high life – literally – as a scaffolder in Western Australia, Hedley moved to Bali to open up a tattoo shop, before one day he decided he was going to give football a serious punt.
The WA native enrolled in ProKick, a program that’s been established to unearth kickers for the big colleges and teams; it was here Hedley signed to play for Miami, earning his stripes before piquing the interest of the big teams.
Hedley made his big move to the NFL signing his first professional contract with the New Orleans Saints where he’s taking on third-year pro Blake Gilican for that starting spot, aged 30.