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Australian Steelers Punter On Pre-Kick Jitters, Life In Pittsburgh And The NFL

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Phelan M. Ebenhack
/
AP
Pittsburgh Steelers punter Jordan Berry (4) walks on the field during warmups before an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in jacksonville, Fla., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015.

When Steelers punter Jordan Berry was growing up in Melbourne, Australia, he didn’t follow American professional football and didn’t know there was such a thing as college football. But with his strong leg, developed playing Australian Rules football, he was offered an athletic scholarship by Eastern Kentucky University. He excelled there and was signed by the Steelers in 2015. 

Now, in his second season in Pittsburgh, Berry said the biggest adjustment to playing American football was learning how to be ready to come into the game cold.

“In Australian Rules football, the field can be up to 230 yards long, so you’re running the whole time trying to get into position to gather the football,” Berry said. “In American football, you’re on the sideline the whole time so just staying warm, staying focused and being mentally ready to perform was one of the biggest adjustments.”    

Though punting is often a last resort for American football teams, it's something Berry loves. He said there's something satisfying about dropping the ball from his hands, to his foot and booming it down the field.

“I just enjoy kicking a ball,” he said. “It’s just something I’ve done as long as I can remember. It’s sort of a cultural thing in Australia. We get our 45 minutes to an hour lunch break in elementary school and high school and during that time we all just go out on the field and kick footballs around. I’ve always had a fairly big kick and enjoyed hitting it as far as I can.”

Berry’s ability to kick a ball far not only put him through college, but has enabled him to earn a good living in the NFL. Adjusting to the top echelon of professional football did not come easy when he joined the Steelers last season, though. 

“I had a little bit of trouble staying relaxed last year and got a bit nervous in pressure situations,” said Berry. “But I’ve worked on that. I try to put myself through some visualization stuff and run through the scenarios in my head before we go out and play so when they come up in a game I’m not too stressed out about it."

“Just working with (former Steelers placekicker Shaun) Suisham last year, he worked with me on my breathing and really calming down and keeping my heart rate down so I’d be able to focus on what I was doing a lot better," Berry said. 

This year, Berry is averaging 47 yards a kick and had a season-long 63-yard punt against the Eagles. But Berry said individual statistics really aren’t the goals he’s focusing on.

“I definitely want to win a Super Bowl,” he said. “It’s the world’s largest event outside of the Olympics and the World Cup so if we can get through to that and win, it would be a life changing event and something to be proud of for the rest of my life.”