In this photo taken Monday for an article by the Adelaide (Australia) Advertiser, renowned Australian Rules football player Luke Jones examines the new type of ball he’ll be using for the next four years when he joins the Albany State football team as its new kicker Friday. Jones, whose brand of Australian Rules football is much different than American football — including a different sized football — can reportedly kick 55-yard field goals with ease and can clear more than 70 yards on punts. (Photo courtesy of Brenton Edwards/Adelaide (Australia) Advertiser)
ALBANY -- Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!
The chant could be echoing throughout Albany State as soon as Luke Jones steps off a plane on Friday and into the United States for the first time in his life.
Jones, an Australian Rules footballer, will be ASU's newest place kicker and punter and may be the final piece to the puzzle for the Rams, who had a mountain of problems on special teams in Saturday's season opener against Savannah State.
ASU coaches confirmed Tuesday they gave Jones a scholarship to kick for the next four years, and Rams special teams coach Kenyan Conner told The Herald he's excited to meet the 21-year-old Australian who he has been in contact with for months.
"We are just looking for him to come in, get comfortable and get the job done," Conner said. "And look him up on Youtube. He can kick a 55-yard field goal like it's nothing."
Conner and the Rams coaching staff expected Jones to join the team during the summer, but the process to move him to Albany from overseas took longer than expected. Jones, who formerly played as a fullback for the Hahndorf Football Club in South Australia, is scheduled to fly in from Down Under on Friday but likely won't play in Saturday's home opener against Wingate.
Jones told the Australian newspaper, The Adelaide Advertiser, in an article published Monday about Jones' journey halfway around the world to play a new brand of football in the U.S., that he hopes to one day land an NFL contract like former Australian Rules footballers Ben Graham and Sav Rocca.
"What's given me the advantage is my Australian Rules background, and kicking field goals goes back to my soccer background," Jones told The Advertiser. "It is rare that you get a guy that can average the kind of numbers I do for punting and then be putting through 55-yard field goals.
"It makes me unique and it will advantage me. There are only 50 spots on a (NFL) roster, so for me to be playing two positions with one roster spot is saving teams money and it means they can have an extra player for another position."
Australian Rules Football, or "Footy" as it's called Down Under, is more akin to soccer than American football because kicking is the most important part of the game. It's played on an oval field (18 players to a side) and you score by kicking the ball through goal posts. There are two inner goal posts (six points) and two outer goal posts (one point).
The ball is oval and larger than an American football, and you are literally kicking the ball on the run -- running then stopping to kick.
It's full contact but no pads are worn (like in rugby). You can run to advance the ball, but you have to dribble the ball every few steps (at least once every 15 meters) while avoiding being tackled. You pass the ball by either kicking it or punching it (like in handball) to your teammate.
Players also can't run in for a score, but you can punch the ball through the goal posts for one point.
The Advertiser reported that Jones can punt an Aussie Rules ball 70 meters, which translates to roughly 76 yards.
"This guy is supposed to be (the real deal)," Conner said. "And if we can get two for one then that is great."
Conner said he began recruiting another Australian footballer, but when that didn't work out he was directed to Jones through a recruiting service.
"Then I went on to Youtube and saw him and made contact with him, and it went from there," Conner said. "I'm pretty confident he has a strong leg."
And a strong leg is just what Albany State needs right now. The Rams struggled in nearly every aspect of special teams against Savannah State on Saturday, including PATs and punts.
Brandon Hamilton missed both extra points he attempted, and Tory Torstenson was 1-for-2 on field goals -- he made one from 40 yards out and got another blocked. Freshman punter Ryan Latner also averaged just 25.2 net yards for his three punts and had another blocked, resulting in a momentum-shifting touchdown for Savannah State. And if you factor in the punt Latner had blocked, that average would've been 1.5 yards per punt.
Conner said he hopes Jones will turn that around in a hurry.
"With all of our young guys, the kicking game is key," Conner said. "This is a kid who is going to help us with that. Touchbacks every time on kickoffs is what we are looking for. He can change the field position right away."
Hamilton did have one touchback on his seven kickoffs Saturday, but Savannah State's average starting field position was at its own 40-yard-line. After Tuesday's practice, ASU coach Mike White said the kicking game will be a point of emphasis leading up to Saturday's game against Wingate.
"We need to get these things solved," he said after confirming the signing of Jones. "The next three or four teams we play are going to come in here seeing those films and are going to attack us that way."
Now the only video opponents need to watch is that Youtube clip of Jones nailing field goal after field goal.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!