Honestly, I always loved playing Australian Rules Football when I was growing up. There was nothing better than kicking the footy in the street with my brother, or catching up with my mates and having a kick down at the local park.

Growing up in inner city Melbourne, I always had aspirations of playing in the AFL and especially at the MCG.

I also played basketball at a high level and at times thought that if I could work hard enough, I could possibly become a pro basketball player here in Australia!

I was a young kid with a lot of dreams and I wasn’t to sure which one to follow, but it was all made clear once I really started to commit to American football, and then my hope of one day making it to the NFL slowly became a reality.

I loved playing Gridiron and it wasn’t until I was invited to an international exhibition game in Austin, Texas – which put the best players from around the world on a team to compete against the USA, where a number of College scouts were there for the game and after talking to a few of them – did I genuinely start to envision a career in the sport.

Soon after that I was 17 and I thought… if I have any chance of heading to the United States, and getting a four year university degree paid for through an American football scholarship, then why wouldn’t I give it a shot?

What’s the worst thing that happens? If you don’t make it, then you just come back to Melbourne, attend a school here, and go to work.

But I always had the mindset that even if I didn’t get into a Division 1 School, I was going to go down the Junior College route. So coming home wasn’t an option for me at that point.

I always would tell myself just keep working, and keep fighting to find my way into the big Colleges.

I was fortunate enough that I had some good people around me that put me in touch with people over here in the United States, and a great opportunity presented at Georgia Tech.

I couldn’t have been more thankful. A lot of guys are put on a scholarship, and then in a year or two they know pretty quickly if they’re going to have the opportunity to make it to the NFL or not.

Once you’re in a College program, you can kind of see the talent, and you can see the guys that are going to the NFL, and you can see the guys that are putting in the work everyday to go to the NFL or go to the NBA or whatever it is.

The tough part is it can sometimes be the physical attributes that you bring; sometimes it can be the opportunity that you have of playing, or where you’re playing, or the quality of the team that you’re playing on .

Like Aussie Rules or Rugby League converts, they have that burst, are in shape and they’re not scared of physical contact.

But the hardest part is transferring the skills of those sports across to American football while trying to understanding the game and the concepts.

That’s probably the toughest part. And that’s why I think it’s such a tough feat for any Australian to come over here… to come over and play a skilled position like quarterback, or running back or receiver, there’s just so many little nuisances of the position, that you need to play the position for a while to understand.

I constantly have people reaching out to me on social media. I try and get back to them – even if it’s just a little piece of advice about contacting the NCAA Clearinghouse, and trying to figure out ways that you can make sure you’re eligible to even come over to College.

Because if you’re not eligible, no College is going to touch you. You need to make sure you have a lot of that stuff already taken care of.

I remember when I was 17, sitting at the computer all night emailing the NCAA Clearinghouse, trying to figure out what needed to be done. I had no idea what I was doing.

I’m just talking to these random people on email or over the phone, calling these American numbers with 13, 14 digits in front of them, trying to talk to someone to figure it out.

There was really no path to follow. I really didn’t know how to take an SAT or what an SAT even was.

So whether it’s just giving kids eligibility advice, training habits… I try get back to as many as I can.

You never know who you can impact just by giving them a little piece of advice and maybe some motivation – I’m trying to get some more Aussies over here and build the brand for us all.

I think Australia’s done a great job of trying to reach in and get more American football events over there. Australians are now starting to see that there is a market for it.

There’s been guys in the local clubs out there that have done so much to promote the game for so long, and I’m happy it’s growing.

These guys, they’re the guys that deserve it the most. The guys that have been in these little local leagues that have zero funding and that are digging in their own pockets to keep the teams a float and out there playing so they don’t fold.

And now just to gain some popularity and some growth, it’s awesome for those local teams and for the sport over there.

I was 19 turning 20, when I first came to the United States in August, 2012.

I remember the first day I got over here, I just went straight to the team hotel with all my bags from Australia, and I was straight into it.

Straight into school, straight into everything. It was pretty full on. It has been such a crazy journey the last six, seven years.

And I’m just so happy and thankful, I couldn’t be more happy where I am right now and what I’m doing. It took a lot of hard work and determination but it’s been an amazing journey.

Probably one of the most influential players that have stood out to me personally is one of my current teammates Domata Peko.

I can’t speak highly enough of this man. He’s a 13 year vet and this guy comes to work everyday.

This is a guy that’s been in the league and he still plays with so much energy – every play, every day running to the ball making tackles, getting the crowd/fans pumped up.

That’s what you want. You see a guy like that coming in to work with an unmatched enthusiasm for his craft and then you think how can I say, “I’m sore? Or I’m tired? Or I don’t feel like doing this?”

If he’s here doing it, it makes it pretty easy for you to want to be there, especially when you love what you do, and that’s a guy who loves what he does, and he wears his heart on his sleeve.

He reminds me a little bit of how I feel I carry myself – I play hard like that. I feel like as long as I’m playing this game, that’s how I’m going to play.

It’s just inspiring to see a guy like that, to have the success that he’s had, we’re trying to get a championship and get to the Super Bowl for that guy as well. Domata deserves it if anyone in the NFL deserves it.

So we’re all working hard and we’re hoping that we can have a good crack this following year.

When you’re from the outside looking in, you always see this real strong culture in the locker rooms of any NFL team.

It’s actually kind of hard to explain.

It’s a sport where it requires every single person to do their job.

A sport where, the offense have to do what they need to do to get points on the board, the defense have to execute their jobs and stop teams from scoring and the special teams guys have to be winning the field position battles.

It’s a sport where there’s so much accountability on each individual to do their job that you need to be able to trust these guys.

You spend the dog days together in the grind where you’re doing the two-a-days, and you’re up at 5 A.M. in the gym lifting, running, competing and everyday is like that., so you know it’s a strong culture/brotherhood developing.

When you’re out there, it’s basically going to war.

Each time the ball snaps, someone’s going to get yards, someone’s going to lose yards.

So it’s basically like you’re out there, and, for us especially, the defensive line position, I feel like that’s where some of that bond is the strongest ’cause you’re in there, in the trenches, and it can be five on three sometimes, it can be two on five, it can be four on five, but you know they’re going to have five offensive linemen trying to move you off the line of scrimmage, so you have to do everything in your power to help the team, do your job and knock that O-line back.

That’s the type of mentality that we have in the locker room and it continues off the field too.

A lot of these guys feel like family because you spend so much time together that you see the passion, you see the emotion, and at the end of the day whoever and whatever we have in that locker room is all we got.

It’s kind of tough because the public only really gets exposed to the work on Sunday’s for that two, three hours that they tune in.

That’s probably 70% of what the public watches, but they don’t see the guys that are in there from 6 A.M. til 9 P.M. at night.

They might be getting treatment four, five times a day because they have a busted ankle and they have to play this week.

That’s tough. We’re there every day and we see that guy, and we see him grinding trying to get back on the team, then all of a sudden, this guy might get cut.

And you’re just like dang, that guy just worked his tail off to get back here, all the way back, and now he’s gone. So it’s ruthless – it’s tough sometimes.

Your brothers are all you have when you’re out there on that field. It’s just the 10 guys around and next to you and there is no better feeling than suiting up after all the hard work and grind has passed, and you get to represent yourself, family, friends and country.