G'day, Ray Guy! Chapman aiming for award
If you are like the majority of Americans, the rules of Australian rules football are entirely unknown. Sure, you might have seen highlights back in the day of the enormous pom-poms in the stands and the referee signaling a try is good by pointing his two fingers like a gun, but that's about the amount of knowledge the country has of that sport.
That's how Oscar Chapman saw American football when he first arrived at Auburn in 2020.
"When I first got here, I didn't really understand anything," the punter said.
It was a crash course for Chapman, who learned to punt in the illustrious Pro Kicker camp that has sent so many to play in college football, including Arryn Siposs, who handled punting duties for the Tigers before Chapman arrived. While some learning happened on the field, Chapman also took advantage of his teammates' obsession with the sport.
"As time goes on, living with teammates and just watching football — everyone wants to go and watch football, football this — and I was like, 'Well, let's go. Teach me everything I can learn,'" he said.
The adjustment has been, as Aussies would say, ace. Chapman finished second in the SEC in 2021, averaging 44.12 yards per punt and helping the Tigers flip the field with his length and accuracy. Entering his third season at Auburn, the Adelaide native has high hopes for what he can achieve in 2022.
"Really want to put myself out there and get the Ray Guy Award," Chapman said. "Best punter award. I want to push for that."
Conference coaches have noticed how effective Chapman has been, voting him to the preseason All-SEC team. He will also have a chance to compete against another Aussie when Auburn hosts Texas A&M. Nik Constantinou, a Melbourne native, is the returning kicker for the Aggies.
So what is it like to go up against someone you know from so far away?
"Always want to beat the other guy," Chapman said. "You want to beat out every other punter. You want to win the field-position battle. But as soon as the other Aussie gets in, you just want to beat him a little bit more."
Being a punter in American football doesn't have the same hardships on the body that Chapman is used to back in his home country. While he says he misses the physicality of Aussie rules, including the tackling and running around, there is one sport in Australia that he stayed away from: rugby.
"Rugby's a little too crazy for me," Chapman said.
When it comes to his first "wow" moment at Auburn, the punter says it came in his first game against Kentucky, even when the crowd was limited due to COVID-19 regulations. But the apex? That came in 2021.
"Then this year came around, and we played up at Penn State, it was like 'Wow, this is it,'" Chapman said. "Then we played Alabama here as well, and that was like, 'This is the peak of everything. This is insane.' Like, I was just so happy to be here. This is it."
From Adelaide to kicking camp to the Plains, Chapman's adventure is still in progress. Maybe the only thing he is sure about is his ability to kick the ball and a particular facial feature. When asked where his mustache ranked among those on the roster, Chapman gave a self-deprecating response.
"I mean, I know mine is pretty bad," he said. "I'm just gonna keep growing it to see whatever happens, but it's definitely — I'm towards the bottom, and everybody else is above me. Anyone else that has one is going to be better than mine."
A humorous bloke.