Aussie punter: I hear Georgia football is like a religion there

Brett Thorson's American football punting to date has been limited to what he has done on the practice field of Pro Kick Australia in Melbourne for the past year. (Special photo)

Brett Thorson's American football punting to date has been limited to what he has done on the practice field of Pro Kick Australia in Melbourne for the past year. (Special photo)

ATHENS – So how does a punter in Melbourne, Australia, receive and accept a scholarship offer from Georgia in the matter of a few weeks during a global pandemic?

Well, it was a lot easier than you might think.

That’s according to Brett Thorson, a 21-year-old Australian whose commitment announcement via Twitter early Wednesday morning caught a lot of football fans by surprise.

Thorson actually posted the tweet that he’d accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia at 5:30 a.m. his time, just before he began his daily workout regimen at Pro Kick Australia. Melbourne, being literally on the other side of the planet, is 15 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.

When Thorson completed his workout and picked up his phone again a few hours later, he began to realize the true scope of what had just happened.

“Definitely a surprise,” Thorson said in an online interview with the AJC five hours after his announcement Wednesday. “Twitter’s not as big over here in Australia, but I know it’s huge over there because my Twitter’s just been going off all morning. Instagram and Facebook as well. My phone’s just been lighting up. I keep having to charge my battery.”

Imagine if he were a 5-star running back prospect. As it is, Thorson is a no-star punter.

Before his announcement that he’d chosen Georgia over, well, nobody else, Thorson’s name could not be found in the considerable databases of 247Sports or Rivals or ESPN. It’s there now with little more than his height (6-foot-2), weight (205 pounds) and whole bunch of N/As (as in non-applicable).

Thorson is the consummate mystery recruit, which surely has Georgia coach Kirby Smart and his staff snickering over in their insulated football compound.

But Thorson can explain the situation succinctly.

“My coaches Nathan Chapman and John A. Smith here at Pro Kick (Australia), they get film of us punting and training and then send it out to football coaches in America,” said Thorson, who said Georgia assistant coach Todd Hartley was his primary recruiter. “I’m not exactly sure whether or not coach Hartley contacted our coaches and said, ‘OK, do you have any punters available in 2022?’ or whether Johnny sent coach Hartley some film of me and he liked it and got back to him. But it all came together fast.”

Thorson said the time between an initial FaceTime introduction and a scholarship offer was very quick, a matter of a week or so. When it came, he accepted immediately.

Thorson said that was fully two weeks ago. However, Georgia told him to hold off on an announcement until Wednesday, for reasons he neither knows about nor cares.

Coming to America to punt has been a dream for Thorson for a while now. His athletic expertise actually is in Australian Rules Football, or “footy” as it is referred to down under. He starred in Victoria’s “late-junior program,” or under-18 football, but did not gain enough notice to get drafted by the Australian Football League.

So Thorson entered college and continued to play “local footy” in amateur recreational leagues. His “unusual” kicking ability drew the attention of the Pro Kick coaches, who monitor those leagues, and he was invited to train.

With daily workout regimens and kicking clinics using an American football, Thorson quickly emerged as a star in the making. Thorson gave Smith the go-ahead to gauge American interest, and the Bulldogs were quickest to answer.

UGA was the first and only offer Thorson entertained.

“The way Pro Kick works is we respect the one school that comes forward to us,” Thorson said. “So as soon as my coach said, ‘Georgia liked your film; they’d like to chat,’ we no longer sent out film or took any other calls. We did that as respect to Georgia. If a school makes you a priority, you make them one as well and give them all your attention.”

The Bulldogs are seeking a successor for All-American punter Jake Camarda, who graduates after the next season. Thorson said he will enroll at UGA in January and compete to start in 2022.

When his plane lands in Atlanta will be the first time Thorson has stepped foot in the United States. He has a clue what to expect, but not much more.

“I know it’s going to be different than Australia,” said Thorson, who grew up on a dairy farm outside of Melbourne. “That’s part of the attraction. Coach Hartley has been preparing me for what differences there are, like what the restaurants are like, the food. Obviously, we drive on different sides of the road. Runners’ pants here are called ‘trackies,’ you guys call them ‘sweats.’ Things like that.”

Then there’s that whole SEC football thing. Thorson has been brushing up on that. YouTube is a great resource. UGA sends him video as well.

“As far as the football goes, I know Georgia is as big as it can get,” Thorson said. “It’s like a religion to them. They just love football. I’ve watched all the videos and been told it, but I don’t think I’ll truly understand the scale of it until I’m there in person and see it myself.”

Thorson may be in for another surprise.