Some athletes want to stay close to home to play college athletics. Others are more adventurous and want to live in another part of the country.
And then there’s Alex Mastromanno, who is from Melbourne, Australia, and signed with Florida State sight unseen. His first trip to the U.S. was to move to Tallahassee in January.
“Coming to a smaller college town like Tallahassee has been a little bit different but you get a good feel for how much college football means to this school and all the supporters we have,” Mastromanno said. “It’s been pretty crazy so far.”
Crazy is an appropriate word. Mastromanno has moved more than 10,000 miles from home to play a sport that he is just beginning to learn. He has seen plenty of American football games on YouTube but has never seen one in person. Yes, the first game he will see will be the one he more than likely punts in, on Sept. 5 against West Virginia in Atlanta.
“He’s never played American football one day in his life but I’m telling you this dude is super talented and you are going to love watching him,” special teams coordinator John Papuchis said told FSU fans in February.
Mastromanno says he’s learning something new each day, and he’s not dropping a cliché. His knowledge is building with each workout and practice. But he’s also not afraid to ask questions of teammates.
Growing up, Mastromanno played Australian rules football, which we may be familiar with from the early days of ESPN and ESPN2 late-night programming. He liked it but didn’t love it.
“I was playing that when I was in high school,” Mastromanno said. “I sort of didn’t have the passion that I thought I would at the time and I wanted to make a transition. There’s a program in Melbourne and they train you as a punter or field kicker. I spoke to them, they got me down for an assessment.”
Mastromanno’s transition took a few years, with training sessions taking place at Pro Kick Australia under the guidance of Nathan Chapman and John Smith. Some elements of the transition were easy, while others took more time.
“Doing things like a high spiral, though, that is a bit of an adjustment,” Mastromanno said. “It’s a higher ball drop than we have in our game back home. That’s the main thing I’ve worked on, my spirals, but doing the Aussie rollout kicks, that’s like first-hand action for me. I’m lucky for that.”
Chapman and Smith have sent hundreds of Australian rules football players over to the U.S., Mastromanno said. And seeing those players succeed in college, as well as land jobs in the NFL, means the popularity of American football is growing in Australia.
When the time was right, Mastromanno began looking at schools. He noted that his preference was to go to a college in the U.S. that had warm weather. His coaches at Pro Kick Australia first began talking with Willie Taggart’s coaching staff but the communication continued when coach Mike Norvell arrived.
Mastromanno said the pieces came together quickly once FSU coaches knew his academics were in line and the punter was able to enroll early.
“We knew that there was a need for a punter in this year’s class,” Norvell said. “He possesses an incredible leg. Getting a chance to know him – the sense of purpose that he has, to be great in all that he does is second to none in this class.”