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Mirco's football journey

Jesse Mirco played his last game of WAFL for East Fremantle in front of just 885 people at Arena Joondalup in August 2017.

When he next enters a playing field in his sport of choice, it could be in front of more than 102,000 fans.

23-year-old Mirco last week signed to play for college football team Ohio State University, having parked his Australian Rules Football dream in favour of kicking a perfect spiral in American football.

The former Shark, who played 14 games at league level in 2017 agreed to a scholarship to study and play football at Ohio State for 2021, opening up the opportunity to make it one day in the NFL as a Punter, who’s specific role is to kick the ball in set plays during matches.

Mirco said the seed was planted for a sporting career change during an overseas trip last year.

“Towards the end of the year I was on a holiday in the US for a couple of months with one of best mates who is cousins with Max Duffy who plays (college football) at Kentucky,” Mirco told Sports Drive on Monday.

“We stopped in to watch Max play a game, it made me fall in love with the sport. From there on I returned home and got in contact with Pro Kick Australia and made the move to Melbourne.”

From there Mirco teamed up with coaches Nathan Chapman and John Smith in Victoria to learn the nuances of kicking an American football, with the goal of winning a scholarship in the US.

“Most guys can kick an Aussie rules drop punt, obviously we all grow up kicking those here,” Mirco said.

“The biggest thing was the transition to the traditional American spiral. It is a different technique, instead of lowering the ball to your foot like you do with an Aussie drop punt. You kind of place it out there and just let it go from a bit higher up and drop it nice and flat on to your foot.”

“Just those little adjustments. Nathan (Chapman) has been doing it forever. He’s freakish that he can just pick out the smallest little things and errors in your technique and change the slightest little things that can give you great improvement really quickly.”

After spending most of 2019 honing his craft in Melbourne with Pro-kick, a scholarship was offered by Ohio State late last month, which Mirco accepted last week.

On top of Duffy’s current exploits at Kentucky State, there are six Australians currently in the NFL system, including former Melbourne Demons rookie Cameron Johnston and West Aussie Mitch Wishnowsky, who represented San Fransisco in the 2020 Superbowl.

Former St Kilda player Arryn Siposs recently signed with the Detroit Lions as an unrestricted free agent.

Other former high profile converts include Darren Bennett, Ben Graham and Saverio Rocca, with Mirco hopeful of joining the growing list.

“That’s obviously the end goal now. It’s a long way away and I understand that, but I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t want to go further with it,” he said.

“I’ve got some great role models in Pro-kick, Cam Johnston has been huge for me, just a great guy to have chat with as a current NFL Punter himself. It’s been good to pick his brain and ask him about his experience and how he made it to the next level.”

College football is strongly supported in the US, with Ohio State’s home ground holding more than 102,000, a larger capacity than the MCG.

Mirco reflected on his time in the WAFL season, having left the Sharks at the end of 2017 to link up with his brother at North Fremantle in the Perth amateur competition, having started his football career with South Fremantle.

“I don’t regret one bit of my footy journey; I thank the Sharks for giving me an opportunity. I can say I played some league footy which was always a dream. I can’t thank those clubs enough.” Mirco said.

Despite the uncertain climate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mirco will continue to train in Perth before linking back up with Pro-Kick Australia later in the year, before heading to Ohio in January 2021.

IMAGE: The West Australian.


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