Gridiron Queensland – Tim O’Donnell heading to Pima Community College

Yet another Bayside Raven is about to cross the pond to take up the sport he loves in the USA.  QLD Sundevils captain, Tim O’Donnell has been offered a position at Pima Community College in Arizona.  This would make the third Raven to head …over to Arizona to play ball.

It wasn’t all easy going for the beastly FB/LB.  Tim’s first ever game was stopped short by a devastating knee injury.  Through his dedication to fitness and football, he rehabilitated his knee to the point where physiotherapists and his surgeon could not believe his progress.

Tim is renowned for his hard running, heavy-hitting blocks and being a beast in the gym.  Pima CC will be very happy with their newest import!  Best of luck, Timmy!  We are all cheering for you and your future success in this sport.

From Sydney Kings to US rugby union, to Saracens rugby player to potential New York Jets NFL star

Article from The Daily Telegraph

HE’s tried basketball, rugby union and now Penrith’s Hayden Smith is on the verge of making it in the NFL.

And no, he’s not a punter.

Smith, a former basketballer and rugby union international for the US, is close to winning a spot on the roster of the New York Jets, one of American football’s most famous franchises.

He’d play in the team’s offence as a tight end, where, should he make the grade, he’ll be a target for two of the sport’s hottest quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. It’s a remarkable step in one of the most amazing journeys in Australian sport.

The 202cm, 116kg giant was set to join the Sydney Kings in 2008 after a successful stint in US college basketball. But a potential NBL career stalled when the Kings folded, sitting out the next two seasons. Smith, who’d completed a financial degree on a basketball scholarship at Denver’s Metropolitan State University, returned to the US and kept fit playing rugby union.

The powerful athlete was soon chosen to play for the US Eagles in last year’s Rugby World Cup.

Former Wallabies assistant coach Scott Johnson, then coaching the US Eagles, spotted him playing college rugby for fun and invited him to join the US team.

From there, the 26-year-old carved out a career playing professional rugby in England’s Aviva premiership for Saracens.

It wasn’t long before NFL scouts noticed his rare mix of agility, handling skills and size. He has trialled with NFL franchises, including Philadelphia, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints and finally the New York Jets.

Tim Brewster, the former head coach of the University of Minnesota, is regarded as a tight end guru. He backs Smith to make the transition. “A lot of coaches shy away from guys who haven’t played the game because it is an exhausting process,” Brewster said.

“To me, that’s the exciting part. Taking a piece of clay like that.

“And I am going to tell you Hayden Smith is one beautiful piece of clay. Just mould him into what you want him to be.”

Australian DT Adam Gotsis commits to Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s 2012 recruiting class has an international flavor.

Adam Gotsis, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound defensive tackle from Australia, committed to Georgia Tech on Saturday night, one of his coaches wrote in an email to the AJC.

He is Georgia Tech’s second commitment within the last three days, joining DB Lynn Griffin of Jacksonville. On Friday, Georgia Tech also withdrew the scholarship offer to the first commitment of this year’s class, DE-LB Junior Gnondonke, because his coach was told his test score was not high enough.

Georgia Tech now has 16 commitments, and may sign as many as 19-20 on National Signing Day (Feb. 1). The top prospect in Georgia Tech’s class may be Central Gwinnett DE Francis Kallon, who moved from England last year.

Here’s more info on Gotsis: He was recommended to Georgia Tech by Paul Manera, who played for Paul Johnson and Yellow Jackets assistant Mike Sewak when they were both assistants at Hawaii. Here’s a scouting report on the mysterious Gotsis from Manera:

“I have watched Adam play and he is very competitive. He is very determined and coachable. He plays with a lot of heart, which is something you cannot measure in a weight room. He has the raw tools to excel and just needs to be in an environment where he can compete on a daily basis. He is also very coachable and I believe that he will be able to master the skills needed to play his position…

Adam is a good athlete. He has good flexibility and coordination for football. Adam has also played basketball and Australian rules football, so through this process this has enabled him to do a variety of movement patterns. Adam has good size, he’s nearly 6-5 and weighs 295 pounds, and he has a big frame to carry it as he does not look 295.  Adam has a good nervous system and he will adapt very well to the strength and conditioning program at Georgia Tech.”

  • One more note on Gotsis: If you want to get an idea about his talent and raw potential, he will be playing in the 2012 International Bowl at 5 p.m. on Feb. 1 in Austin, Texas. Gotsis plays on the World Team, while Team USA has a ton of big-name prospects scheduled to play on it, including RB Todd Gurley of Tarboro, N.C. (committed to UGA) and QB Jameis Winston of Hueytown, Ala. (committed to FSU).

Jesse Williams leads charge for family as Alabama clinches American College championship

Courier Mail

Australia’s Jesse Williams had a premonition his rivals would not trouble the scorers in the American College championship series final.

Plenty of tears were shed in Williams’ home town of Brisbane yesterday as his premonition came true, Alabama University routing Louisiana State University 21-0 on one of the biggest days of the American sporting calendar.

Arthur Williams admitted crying after his son’s victory.

“I’m still trying to absorb it,” he said.

“Next to my sons being born and being married, it’s definitely the best day of my life.”

Williams Sr believed his son played well in his role as a defensive linesman.

“He didn’t stand out but that’s Jesse, he knew what he needed to do to help the team win.”

More than 40 family and friends joined Arthur at his Cannon Hill home as 150kg Jesse ran out before 110,000 fans. With talent scouts glued to yesterday’s game, he could potentially earn millions if he is picked up by an NFL team

And there could be more to come from the Williams clan, with Jesse’s “baby” brother Ethan already weighing in at 107kg at the age of 16.

Ethan starts Year 11 at Cavendish Road State High School in two weeks, but come next year he hopes to be learning “math” in an American high school.

Confident and determined, Ethan wants to be like big brother, “only better”.

“I need to kill it in the gym and kill it on the field this year,” said Ethan, who plays for the same Bayside Ravens that Jesse did.

Ravens coach Steve Box said Ethan had the build to make an impression on American scouts.

“You can’t teach someone to be big,” Box said.

Jesse Williams and the University of Alabama have won the BCS National Championship against previous

From the Daily Telegraph

It wasn’t pretty, but Australian defensive lineman Jesse Williams and his underdog University of Alabama team-mates have pounded their way to US college football’s top prize.

Alabama beat the No.1 ranked Louisiana State University (LSU) 21-0 in the BCS National Championship played at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

The game was expected to be a defensive arm wrestle and it lived up to the hype, with Alabama’s first 15 points coming from five field goals.

The only touchdown came in the final four minutes when a battered LSU let Alabama’s Trent Richardson run 34 yards to the end zone.

“It was a great team win and our defence did a great job,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.

As good as Williams, a 21-year-old, 193cm tall, 145kg giant and the Alabama defence were, LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and his offence were impotent.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 234 yards, while Jefferson managed just 53 yards.

LSU crossed the halfway line just once.

LSU’s one bright spot was Melbourne punter Brad Wing who was called on to the field nine times to kick his team out of trouble.

Wing, who has become a sensation in the US and attracted the attention of NFL clubs for his long, accurate boot, averaged 45.7 yards on each punt.

Williams, born on Thursday Island in Torres Strait and raised in Brisbane, is heavily tattooed and after the win will book himself in for more body art.

Williams vowed to have a copy of the BCS trophy tattooed on his body if Alabama, known as the Crimson Tide, were victorious.

The game is believed to have been the first time two Australians played on opposing sides in college football’s grand finale.

Jy Bond is taking a punt on getting an NFL contract

Daily Telegraph

JY Bond has a strong message for those NRL pretenders who think they can make it in the US.

They should prepare themselves for a brief conversation that finishes with a cardboard box. Not a big one, either. Just enough space for your cleats, toiletries, maybe a training sweatshirt if you can pinch one. But more than that? “Pal, go line up outside our NFL Team Store with all the other supporters.”

Because, once again, that’s exactly where you live.

“And to describe the feeling? It’s shithouse,” Jy Bond deadpans. “You’re standing inside the locker room, your box tucked under one arm just like in the movies, thinking ‘f…, what am I doing here?’ And I don’t just mean with your football. Suddenly you’re questioning where the next dollar will come from. Where you’ll go that night. You don’t even have a home anymore, but too bad… pack your shit and go.”

And for the past three years, this is exactly what Bond has done. This towering, thickset Melburnian – the son of 1970s Richmond star Graeme Bond, no less – quietly humping his swag around the US in a blur of playbooks, punts and promises. A journey of full NFL rosters and empty cardboard boxes.

There are four, maybe five, punters who live within a bee’s appendage of an NFL contract. Jy Bond is one of them.

Twice he has signed NFL contracts. Twice receiving a box before the season even began.

Yet still he persists.

This anonymous 32-year-old toiler, an Australian underdog story right down to the VB bottle opener on his keyring, kicks away knowing he’s only one eye-catching performance from that world where contemporaries drive BMWs, own Florida beach homes and, in the case of the Oakland Raiders’ Shane Lechler, earn $3 million a year.

Where every weekend at places like the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, some 100,000 fans scream you through the longest 1.3 seconds in world sport.

And still Bond’s is a story no one wants to tell.

His tale of persistence overshadowed by those latest newspaper headlines screaming about the NFL pursuits of Aussies like Brendan Fevola, Nick Davis and Willie Mason. Of Cory Paterson and, ridiculously, Todd Carney.

Yet here in the States, here where NRL is a misprint not a football league, the only Down Under Wonder anyone cares about is the ambidextrous blond.

“There’s no doubting Jy should be in the NFL,” says Sav Rocca, the 1990s Collingwood king who now punts for Washington.

“To be honest, I can’t believe it hasn’t happened yet. But it will. He’s right there…”

Right there.

Like in 2009, when Bond joined the Miami Dolphins only to be cut within weeks of the season opener. Or the following year when, having signed with the New York Giants, punt returner Domenik Hixon, a good friend who lived in the same apartment block, busted his knee in training and was put on the injured list.

“So then a new guy had to come in for Dom,” Bond shrugs. “Which also meant someone had to go.”

Guess who?

“And that one, it was really tough because I’d never kicked better,” the punter recalls, sitting now with The Sunday Telegraph in a Sacramento coffee shop.

“I remember rolling into training only days after Dominic was injured and a staffer saying ‘coach wants to see you’. I was excited, thinking, ‘OK great, there’s obviously something he wants me to work on today’. So I walk into Tom Coughlin’s office and he says, ‘sorry, but we gotta pull the rug from under you here’. And that was it. I was gone.”

So can someone please tell this to Mason, Carney and co? Explaining how there are 32 NFL punters. Some 320 million Americans. The competition for spots so fierce that every year college football alone produces 700 punting candidates.

“Which,” Bond laughs, “puts your chances of success up there with Lottery odds.”

And for proof, consider that Bond waited three years before even suiting up for his first game. The opportunity finally coming when he signed on for a season with Hartford Colonials in the UFL – a feeder competition where crowds number 25,000, teams travel on private jets and players receive $50,000 for no more than two months’ work.

“So it’s serious,” Bond offers. “At Hartford, we had a linebacker arrive five minutes late for a meeting – they cut him. Another time, playing away, they cut a guy and wouldn’t even let him fly home on our jet. Told him to book in his own flights.

“But that’s how it is over here. Players get cut all the time without the rest of us knowing how or why. One day you’ll turn up for training and the locker next to yours, it’s empty.”

In a recent interview with ESPN, Colonials coach Chris Palmer said of Bond: “He comes to camp, you see his leg and go ‘wow, this guy can make it in the NFL’.”

And yet here we sit in a Sacramento coffee shop.

Officially, Bond is unemployed. He has no home, no car. Living right now in a city so panned that, despite being the capital of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, when Governor, would use a private jet to fly himself back to Los Angeles every evening.

Bond has lived in Miami, New Jersey and Connecticut. New York and San Diego, too. He moved only recently to ‘Sac Town’ because his good mate ‘The Wok’ – a redheaded Melbourne boy who now works Stateside – demanded he come and spend a few months living as good as rent free.

And for a guy surviving on what’s left of that 50 grand made with Hartford, well, it makes sense. Especially when you consider he’s previously slept on couches to ensure there was enough in the bank to pay airfares and accommodation for his next NFL trial.

“You won’t see me walking around in a new pair of Air Max sneakers, put it that way,” Bond laughs. “It’s also why I never invite friends from Australia to come stay. It’s embarrassing. They’ll plan all year for a New York holiday and, when they finally arrive, you have to say, ‘ah, sorry to ruin everything, but I don’t actually live there anymore’.”

So why does he do it? Why does this obviously gifted Australian rules footballer, a fella who was signed briefly by Richmond under the father/son rule, persist in a code where the odds are stacked so heavily against him?

“Why? Because, yes, I played footy, went to Richmond, blah, blah, blah,” he shrugs. “But I did that because I was expected to do it. Arriving at dad’s old club, I expected to just roll and in play, you know what I mean?”

So he could have prepared better? “Oh, absolutely I could’ve made a better go of AFL,” he says. “But I don’t feel like it’s what I was meant to do. Sure, over here, there are plenty of days where it’s shit. Awful. You’re across the other side of the world from family, from friends, thinking, ‘geez, I need a team, if only to get a house’.

“But at the same time, this is exactly where I want to be. Training. Hanging in. Being over here, trying to make it into the NFL, I love it. I love punting footballs.”

Which is also why Bond insists he will not make those same mistakes that cruelled his time at the Tigers.

So four days of every week, on a practice field he books in advance, this unknown Aussie meets up with a long snapper who lives nearby and punts hundreds of balls. Snap, punt… snap, punt… snap, punt.

Four days a week you can also find Bond in his nondescript Sac Town gym. And while Rocca has no idea what he leg presses at the Redskins – “trainers look at my sheet, load the weights on and I lift ’em” – Bond is forever checking stats, loading the bars and groaning his way through 200kg squats.

On top of that are yoga classes. Pilates at night. Anything, he says, to ensure “that when my one chance finally comes, I’m ready”.

And when you consider he could be called into the NFL at any time, there are also countless hours studying what this American football rookie once likened to “learning Chinese arithmetic”. A chaotic swirl of variables involving laces, pooch punts, direction, breeze, hang time, edges, rushing defence, position, even the varying nuances of 32 NFL punt returners.

All of it here and gone within 1.3 seconds. “Although sometimes you have a little leeway,” Bond says without a hint of the dramatic. “Sometimes you might have 1.4.”

You believe he’ll use that tenth of a second too.

While he may look every inch the son of an AFL premiership player, you sense Bond has received much of his drive from mum Merelyn, the single parent who, for years, would rush from work to drive her boy to training or games. Who years later also helped fund an overseas trip so Jy could visit a step-brother playing college baseball.

It was on that holiday that US coaches first noticed the blond Aussie booting a Sherrin by the sidelines. So excited by his range that, moments later, having scrounged up an American footy, they called out, “see how yah go puntin’ this”.

Bond also praises the guidance of Rocca. And Darren Bennett, the unassuming Aussie, who, back in the 1990s, was crowned NFL punter of the decade.

When Bond was struggling to make the switch from kicking a Sherrin, it was Bennett who gave up his secrets. And when Bond was cut by the Dolphins, Bennett gave up his couch.

Maybe the Godfather of Australian NFL punting sees something of himself in a fella who has “Believe” inked on his left wrist and “Destiny” on the right.

Indeed, belief is what keeps Bond going as the boxes pile up. And the knowledge that Mat McBriar, another Aussie superboot currently signed with Dallas, was cut by both Seattle and Denver before inking a $10 million deal. And Rocca, now in his fifth season of NFL, was also overlooked twice.

Which is why, Bond stresses, his opportunity will come. One year, one game, one punt, who knows? His only guarantee being that when the opportunity presents itself, he’ll be good to go. Ready for the moment when that conversation doesn’t finish with a cardboard box.