Since getting hired at Pitt, Pat Narduzzi and his staff have shown a willingness to travel the country for football talent. Yesterday, we found out that they’ve taken it to another level by getting a commitment from a player from Australia.
Punter Kirk Christodoulou became Pitt’s 10th commit in the Class of 2017, after giving Pat Narduzzi a verbal commitment. This morning, I had a chance to speak over the phone with Christodoulou and his head coach Nathan Chapman about this news.
“It’s a great feeling. I’m just at a loss for words,” said Christodoulou.
Here’s some background on the newest Panther and how he ended up becoming a Pitt Panther commit.
Christodoulou punts for the team, Pro Kick, coached by Nathan Chapman and John Smith. Christodoulou tells me, “I wouldn’t be here without Nathan and John. Pro Kick has sent boys all over the country to schools and leagues and now it’s my turn.”
The Pitt coaching staff found out about this talent because of a relationship Powell has with Chapman, dating back to his days with Maryland.
“I’ve been communicating with him since he’s been at Maryland,” said Chapman. “It just so happens the timing was right, we had someone who we thought would fit and they had a need.”
“You must commend Coach Powell and Coach Narduzzi for being well ahead of the game in terms of a scheduling standpoint and thinking of the future. For them to go out and take care of this position so far in advance is a credit to them.”
Christodoulou and Chapman made the trip from “Down Under” to “The Burgh” on Wednesday and that trip sealed the deal for him.
“I was blown away by Pittsburgh. It’s such a great city and I liked all the bridges,” said Christodoulou. “The Pitt facilities are just crazy. Plus to be able to train next to the Steelers and I’ll be next to their punter Jordan Berry, who’s a good mate of mine. I’ll be able to work with him, it’s a great feeling and I’m just at a loss for words.”
Pitt getting a player from Australia is a story, but so is the fact that another kicker from Australia is having success is something that’s becoming common. So, why are Australians so good at kicking?
“In Australia we grow up with Aussie Rules Football, which I think you guys call Rugby. It’s a game where all you do is punt the football. So, we’re growing up at the ages of 4 to 6 and all we’re doing is kicking the ball with the same set of muscle groups and power through the leg. When American punters start learning to punt later, we already starting doing it 10 years earlier,” said Christodoulou.
Another reason for the countries success is the guidance of Chapman, who’s referred to as a punting guru.
“We run a full-time program and demand that the players treat the process with respect,” said Chapman. “We’re in Australia, we’ve had to work really, really hard for many years to be in a position to be able to say to a coach, “Hey, we have a guy for you.”
“Schools can’t come to see them kick or can’t come recruit them. There has to be a trust. I can’t let a coach down because as soon as I do that, they won’t want to come back and take another Australian.”
Christodoulou tells me that he’s prepared to kick whichever style the Pitt coaches ask of him, whether that’s “pro style or go back to Australian style.”
So one year from now, this Aussie will be making the big move from Australia to Pittsburgh and it’s something he’s ready for.
“My family is supportive and we’re just looking past the emotional side of it because it’s a great opportunity. I’m getting a full scholarship to play football in front of thousands of fans.”
“My family definitely is going to come over and watch my first game, they wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
// Header image: Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh by Flickr user gam9551 | CC BY-ND 2.0