Punter from Down Under

Lake Forest - At age 30, free agent punter Nathan Chapman already has several years of playing for the Bears under his belt. But in Chapman's case, his former team is located a considerable distance south Chicago's city limits.

"I played for the Brisbane Bears, in the Australia Rules Football League," Chapman said during the Chicago Bears mini-camp. "So it's a little ironic to be with another team called the Bears here in the U.S. right now."

Getting an invite to an NFL camp isn't a new endeavor for Chapman, who made it into Green Bay's training camp last year and stayed with the team through the first two games of the regular season. Being cut was just ‘a matter of bad luck' said Chapman's father Paul, who watched his son from the sidelines over the weekend.

Chapman has an indirect connection to John Tait, whose father-in-law hails from the small town of Bandingo, which is Chapman's hometown as well. Tait has taken Chapman under his wing while the Aussie is in town, offering the would be player room and board at his house as well as rides to and from Halas Hall.

"That certainly worked out well for me," Chapman said. "Although I am somewhat familiar with the area having played in Green Bay, it's nice not to be sitting in a hotel room somewhere. John has gone out of his way to make me feel at home, and I appreciate it."

Chapman enjoys the challenges posed by American football and feels that his experience as a professional player in Australia should be somewhat of an advantage.

"I've spent years in game day situations so I understand how to handle pressure. I think that I keep my composure pretty well when he chips are down. Punting is a science. It's all about strategy, more or less like a giant chess match. The other team makes a move then you counter, trying to turn the situation to your advantage. It's very precise and calculated."

Chapman's technique during practice sessions is to repeat the same move over and over until it becomes second nature.

"I've always operated that way. I want my motion to be second nature, so I'm not thinking about the mechanics when it's my time to take the field. Today, for example, I spent about an hour placing the ball in a certain spot near the sidelines. Small things change the trajectory such as temperature, wind speed, even the shoes that I wear. I need to take every variable into account. It's important to know for sure where it will sail once it leaves your foot."

Despite his professional experience and strong work ethic Chapman knows his chances of becoming an NFL Bear are slim at best.

"I wish that I could say I'm a lock to make the team but Chicago already has a pretty strong man at my position. I'm not expecting any miracles. Brad Maynard is clearly one of the best punters in the league. But I look at this as an opportunity to get better known in the league. So much comes through networking and word of mouth."

But until the long awaited call comes, Chapman continues to live out of his suitcase.

"I'm ready to go anywhere, at any time, wherever an opportunity might present itself. I've learned to travel light and to go wherever my services might be needed. Somebody might be looking for a punter and hear that I've done well in Chicago this weekend. My agent has been working the phones to get me some more tryouts and we're hoping that a nearby team will respond. Until then, I'm hanging out at John's house and hoping for the best."


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