American footballer Lachlan Edwards on how a chance moment of boredom led to a career in the NFL, and why he steers clear of social media. By Donna Walker-Mitchell.
Taking a punt: Lachlan Edwards, 25, American footballer
I grew up on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. It’s such a beautiful part of the world. We had amazing beaches just a 10-minute drive away from our home in Hastings. I grew up on five acres so we had motorbikes and I learnt to drive a manual car when I was about eight years old. I’d drive around the paddock during the day. The only condition was I had to have someone in the car with me; usually it was my dad or one of my brothers.
The day that changed everything for me was when my friend and I found an American football. It was one of those rubber ones you get from Target. We were bored so we went down to the field and I just started punting it. I kicked some pretty good balls and this American professor who was from the University of Ballarat, where I went to, stopped and asked if I played American football. He told me how to go about doing it and within six months I ended up getting a scholarship at Sam Houston University in Huntsville, Texas.
I think my love of sport came from watching my two older brothers play on the weekends. I was the one who was tagging along to watch them, but I couldn’t play because I was too young. I just wanted to get out there, I didn’t want to be on the sidelines.
It really was a culture shock moving to Texas. I was in over my head a little bit. I was sleeping on a teammate’s couch for three months. People would look at me like I was speaking a different language. I don’t think they get many Australians out in Huntsville. It was probably more of a shock to them than it was to me because I grew up watching American movies and TV so I could understand a little bit of American lingo. Just getting around day to day there was difficult, because I had to repeat myself constantly. I would get quite frustrated.
I’m now in my second season with the New York Jets and I love New York, but one thing I will never do is drive in the city. It’s unreal. I don’t know how anyone survives driving in the city. New York is huge and it’s almost overwhelming at times. It took me several months to get my bearings and ride the subway with confidence.
My mum and dad are coming over to visit very soon and I can’t wait. They’ll be here for a little over two weeks so they’ll get to watch two home games. Five years ago, they were hesitant when I spoke to them about going to college in Texas. It’s not every day that sort of thing happens. Now they understand I know what I’m doing and I can handle myself they’ve let me off the leash a bit.
I’ve been on a huge learning curve over the past year. One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is not to go on Twitter and read the comments people make about you. You have to shut everything out that is going on. A lot of people are just idiots for the sake of being idiots. They’ll say anything to get under your skin. You really have to block a lot of the noise out and just go about your business. You should never Google your name either. It doesn’t help anything.
I understand why footballers don’t want to quit. I really enjoy my teammates and being around the guys. It’s good just to be around like-minded people who want to do the same thing you want to do and have that same dedication. In most jobs, even if you’re in an office, you’re still sort of by yourself, whereas with football, you really are with your teammates all the way.
One of the best things about going back to Australia is seeing my mates and just relaxing at home, not really worrying about anything. My mum is a fantastic cook and she always makes these great dinners. It’s not like she has this one great dish. Everything my mum cooks is fantastic, it doesn’t matter what it is.
I’ve worked as hard as I could, but I think there is an element of luck to everything you do. Life gives you chances and I think you should take those chances when they are put in front of you. That’s probably how I’ve done it. I’ve been lucky to take advantage of the chances when they were put in front of me. You have to say “yes”.
I’ve already got my order in for what Mum and Dad can bring me from Australia. Two of the top things on the list are Milo and Nesquik. They have Nesquik here, but for some reason which I haven’t been able to work out, it just tastes so different.
I miss my good buddies back in Australia and I still keep in touch with them. Where I lived, you could go to the beach whenever you want and I really love that lifestyle, but I know this is a small window in my life, so as for right now, I definitely wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I’m going to ride this wave. I’ve been given a huge opportunity and it can really set you up for life, so I’m going to run with this while I can and for as long I can.
This week’s highlights…
• Horseracing: Caulfield Guineas Day
Saturday, 1st race 12.20pm (AEDT), Caulfield Racecourse, Melbourne
• Netball: Australian Diamonds v New Zealand Silver Ferns
Saturday, 3pm (AEDT), Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
• Motorsport: Japanese MotoGP
Sunday, 4pm (AEDT), Twin Ring Motegi, Japan
• Soccer: A-League: Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory
Sunday, 5pm (AEDT), McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
• Tennis: Shanghai Masters singles final
Sunday, 7.30pm (AEDT), Qi Zhong Tennis Centre, Shanghai
• Cricket: Women’s Ashes Tour one-day match – Australia v Queensland
Monday, 9.15am (AEST), Allan Border Field, Brisbane
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 14, 2017 as "Taking a punt".
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