JAMIE Keehn has never played a game of American football, but has astoundingly found himself on a four-year scholarship to one of the best football universities in the United States.
Keehn arrived back in Ballarat yesterday, exhausted after a whirlwind tour of Louisiana State University that lasted just three days, including travel.
The former Learmonth and Lake Wendouree footballer signed on as a punter at one of the premier football colleges in the USA on the tour, and still can’t believe how it happened.
With a background in javelin and rowing and growing up in Queensland, Keehn had barely kicked a ball until he played in the Central Highlands Football League in 2010.
He then tried out with Prokick Australia after a brief stint with Lake Wendouree and, 12 months later, has landed one of the most sought-after punting scholarships in America.
Keehn will head back to America in mid-June, but says he has already been blown away by the enormity of NCAA Division 1 college football.
“Even though I was there for barely a day you could still get a grip of how big a deal it really is,” Keehn said.
“I’ve been told that when you walk down the street everybody knows your name.
“It’s like if Melbourne had one AFL team and every single person followed that team.”
The 22-year-old does not yet know if he will get a game in his first season and expects to be “red-shirted” – where a student is rested for a year while he develops his skill, therefore extending his scholarship.
“Plenty of guys (including current Australian LSU punter Brad Wing) get red-shirted in the first year but go on to big things,” he said.
Having never played a game and only playing Australian Rules for less than two years, he was virtually signed by the university sight unseen, except for a few tapes of him in action.
Even when he toured the university, he wasn’t actually allowed to kick or show off any of his abilities. Now he is part of one of the most famous college teams in America, where more than 90,000 people attend every home game.
Given his success in just 12 months of coaching, Keehn said he could not help but dream of an NFL career. “Of course you want to play NFL but right now I’m at LSU for four years and that’s what I’m focusing on,” he said.
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