Australian punter learning ropes with Cajuns

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- University of Louisiana at Lafayette punter Daniel Cadona of Australia spends a moment with Major Hudspeth, 3, Wednesday while practicing at the school's athletic complex. Hudspeth is the son of head coach Mark Hudspeth and his mother, Tyla, said he is a fan of the school's kickers.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- University of Louisiana at Lafayette punter Daniel Cadona of Australia spends a moment with Major Hudspeth, 3, Wednesday while practicing at the school's athletic complex. Hudspeth is the son of head coach Mark Hudspeth and his mother, Tyla, said he is a fan of the school's kickers. "He says, 'I like Daniel. He's from Outback Steakhouse," she said.

Australian punter learning U.S. football with Cajuns

LAFAYETE — Live leg. Lots of hang time. Long distances.

That’s exactly what jumped out at University of Louisiana at Lafayette football coach Mark Hudsepth when he first viewed the tapes of Australian punter Daniel Cadona.

The videos might have shown Cadona on another continent, kicking another type of football at Australia‘s Institute Of Sport, but Hudspeth said what he witnessed then has spoken for itself since ULL began spring practice last month.

The only difference is Cadona is now wearing football equipment and not kicking as he did in Australian rules games.

After signing a ULL scholarship in February, Cadona has spent the last month learning to kick an American football.

From a kicker’s standpoint, the two brands of football have some obvious differences, Cadona said.

In Australia, punters move around the field, using kicks as ways of pushing a team downfield. The only way to score points in Australia is by kicking the ball through two tall goal posts.

Players are now up in Cadona’s face, rushing to block his punts.

Then there was the equipment issue.

The 22-year-old from Canberra, Australia, never wore helmets, shoulder pads and other protective gear while playing Australian football.

Having to do that for college practices added to the initiation, said Cadona, 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds.

“Wearing the helmet does make a difference,” he said. “That’s been the biggest thing. It took a while to get used to the added weight.

“In Australia, there were no pads of any kind.. It felt funny at first when I stepped into the shoulder pads and then with the helmet. It made kicking a little different.

“The other kickers helped out,” Cadona continued. “They gave me tips and reminded me of the things I needed to wear out on the field. All the football equipment does restrict the kicking movement, but it didn’t divert me from concentrating.”

Hudspeth said he removed himself from supervising Cadona’s equipment introduction.

“Once he learned how to put on equipment, I thought he’s done well. As far as showing him what to do (with equipment), I stayed out of it. I let the equipment managers handle it,” Hudspeth said.

Cadona said Australian rules permit kickers to run with the ball when punting.

“The kick in Australian rules is to the punter’s advantage,” Cadona said. “It’s almost like he is passing it. Here in America, it’s stand back and take one or two steps forward.”

Hudspeth said Cadona’s hang time on punts has normally registered 4.8 seconds.

Distance presents only one problem, Hudspeth said.

“I’m worried that he is going to out kick the coverages with his leg strength,” Hudsepth said. “I also think there has been a little bit of an adjustment on his part with people running at him.

“The good thing is that (Cadona) is a 22-year-old, and he is very mature. He’s played a lot of club football down in Austrailia.

“At this point, I would say he still needs a lot of work, but we have seven more practices, the whole summer and then all of August.”

The maturity that he carries has played a big part in making the transition easier, Cadona said.

“My age is to my benefit. I think it enables me to take criticisms a little easier,“ he said.

Cadona said he decided to leave Australia because of a shoulder injury he got playing rugby.

There was also the desire to kick for an American college team.

Like other unrecruited players searching for a team, Cadona turned to the Internet and YouTube for self-promotion.

Cadona also moved to Las Vegas, where he worked with kicking coach Chris Sailer for several months last year.

Sailer discussed Cadona‘s kicking attributes on the Scout.com website.

“The Australian punter has the perfect size, strength and form to dominate at the D1 level. He can step in and play anywhere right now,” Sailer wrote.

According to ESPN.com,. ULL and Utah State were the schools interested in Cadona.

“I wanted to play sports, live in the United States and go to college for a degree,” Cadona said. “There were other things, such as playing for a school in the South, where football is the number one sport. There is also better weather here, warmer and the environment for football was prevalent.

“If I played, it had to be a Division I school in a town that wasn’t that large. Lafayette had pretty much what I was looking for,” Cadona continued.

One position Hudspeth sought to fill was at punter, and he began taking notice of Cadona’s videos.

“I knew (Cadona) was a big-time kicker,” Hudspeth said. “A lot of major colleges were after him,” Hudspeth said.

Cadona said he met with Hudspeth and was impressed with the possibilities.

“Talking with (Hudspeth) gave off a lot of positive energy for me,” Cadona said. “This program was doing well, and with the (R+L Carriers New Orleans) bowl game and all, I thought this is where I want to be. I felt right at home (with Hudspeth), although I had never met him.”