Despite everything you’ve been told, punters are people, too. That includes NFL Draft prospect Tom Hackett, a two-time Ray Guy award winner out of Utah.
Hackett, a Melbourne native, didn’t have to run the 40 or do the 225-pound bench press at the Combine, but that doesn’t mean the experience was pleasant.
“It was hell, to be honest with you,” Hackett said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They put you in a position to try and fail. It was exciting. It was cool to be around those people, but at the same time, I was happy to get on that plane home after my workout, that’s for sure.”
Hackett had trouble sleeping in Indianapolis, which may have been by design.
“Well, they kind of put you in a hotel and the hotel just happens to be (near) a train station,” Hackett explained. “I was reading a paper and it said, ‘If you hear rumbling throughout the night, don’t worry, it’s just a train.’ I didn’t think much of it and then 11:30 at night came along and the place felt like an earthquake of a magnitude of about an 8 was coming through. My roommate, who was about 300 pounds, jumped out of his bed. That happened at 11:30, 2:30 and 4:30 every morning.”
Needless to say, Hackett, who said he “runs like a penguin,” wasn’t as sharp as he would have preferred for the various workouts and team meetings.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “But you got to make the most of the opportunity.”
Hackett, 23, has certainly done that. He moved from Australia to the United States four years ago to pursue a football career.
“We all kind of have our own different story,” he said. “Mine’s interesting. I was doing my senior year back home in Melbourne, Australia, and I didn’t get the grades I was kind of after. And so my really only options to go to university back home were institutions I really was’t that fond of. So I saw a news broadcast about a famous Australian rules football player trying to come over and play in the NFL. I thought, ‘Well, I’m pretty good at Aussie rules football. My main asset is my kicking ability.’”
A little over a year later, in May 2012, Hackett was on a one-way flight to Salt Lake City, which, not surprisingly, isn’t all that similar to Melbourne.
“It’s different,” he said. “I’m not really a religious person. I didn’t come from a religious background. My parents (just didn’t want me to marry a Mormon). I didn’t even know what a Mormon was coming over here, so I’ve kind of learned a bit about that and the LDS religion. They’re a great bunch of people and they looked after me for four years.”
Hackett admits there was a learning curve in understanding the nuances of American football – or just the rules of the game. It took him roughly three-fourths of his freshman season before he felt comfortable.
“I didn’t know what all these yellow flags were,” he said, prompting laughter from Lawrence. “Nowadays I love (the game). I can watch it on the TV. I like to think I know what’s gong on. I’ve adjusted and I enjoy it now.”