What does an AFL veteran with a history of concussions do in order to keep a sports career alive?
For Richmond forward Ben Griffiths, the answer was simple: Accept a college scholarship in the U.S. to play for the University of South California Trojans as a kicking specialist.
The code switch seems obvious. Gridiron punters have possibly the best job on the planet. No one is allowed to touch them. Practice consists of grabbing a bag of balls and kicking them. At USC, Griffiths will not even have to chase the balls. The Trojans have people to do that.
AFL players are all the rage in the U.S. and if Griffiths can catch a slot with one of the NFL squads, he will get a pay boost that is difficult to perceive.
Lachlan Edwards punts for the New York Jets of the NFL. He was paid $US 540,000 for the 2017 NFL season. The Jets are a dismal team, which means that Edwards did a lot of work. Edwards had 94 punts last season, which works out to a cool $5,744 every time he puts foot to ball.
Jordan Berry of the Pittsburgh Steelers has a three-year contract that paid him $615,000 in 2017. The Steelers are one of the NFL’s better teams, so Berry had to punt just 64 times, making his per punt average just under $10,000.
Nice work if you can get it. NFL punters do not have the game-winning or losing pressure on them that field goal kickers face, but the downside is that there are only 32 jobs for punters in the NFL and once a punter achieves tenure, he starts to cost the team dearly, over $1 million in many instances, so he becomes expendable.
Griffiths said the offer to play major U.S. collegiate gridiron was unexpected and only came up in the past couple of weeks.
This was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately the opportunity was too good to refuse,” Griffiths said. “It certainly wasn’t something I had been contemplating and only arose two weeks ago.”
Across eight seasons with the Richmond Tigers, Griffiths played 63 senior games, kicking 42 majors. That includes three seasons where he was scoreless.