From Sydney to South Euclid to … the NFL?

Notre Dame’s Punter Not Your Typical College Student-Athlete

When Cayle Chapman-Brown arrived at the NDC football fall training camp in August, he looked, sounded and acted like anything but a standout collegiate football player. As a 25-year-old with an Australian accent, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing all of 235 pounds, Chapman-Brown had just arrived from the airport and was feeling the effects of jet lag.

He was also feeling nervous about performing in front of his new coaches and peers; and his peers had no idea who he was.

Cayle-Chapman Brown has the potential to become an NFL punter. Photo: Ryan Baker“I didn’t know what he was doing there,” says quarterback James Flowers, an 18-year-old freshman who, at the time, was one week into his college career. “I thought he was a dad or something.”

Once the season got underway, Flowers, his teammates and any opposing coaches scouting the Falcons on film learned full well who Chapman-Brown is, and what he’s capable of.

The lefty-punting Sydney, Australia, native may well be one of the best college punters in the nation.

Through the first months of the football season, Chapman-Brown has become one of the top punters in the NAIA, averaging 40 yards per kick with a floating hang time in the 4-4.5-second range. His best efforts leave on-lookers, even those between the lines during the game, in awe.

“I’ve been around the game a long time,” says NDC Assistant Coach Tom Sutton, who coaches kickers and punters. “I’ve never seen guys just stop what they’re doing to watch a punter. But we all do just that because what he’s capable of is amazing.”

What Chapman-Brown is capable of is precisely this: a booming kick that comes off his left foot, spiraling the “wrong way” and hanging in the air for four-and-a-half seconds before sailing over a would-be returner’s shoulder and coming to a rest some 70 yards away.

Despite never having played American football in his life, that’s exactly what the former amateur Australian-rules football player did with his first two punts in Notre Dame’s inaugural game against Mercyhurst (Pa.) on Aug. 28. Chapman-Brown’s first punt was recorded as a 62-yard effort; his second was a 69-yarder. The Mercyhurst punt returner watched both almost like a spectator.

Since that first game (as of Sept. 24), the Aussie punter has added another 60-yarder and has booted seven punts of 50 or more. He’s had one or two misfires per game, but what he’s capable of has coaches, fans and the Cleveland-area media excited about the “Thunder from Down Under.” 

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“He’s a potential NFL punter,” says NDC Head Coach Adam Howard, who recruited Chapman-Brown via e-mail and telephone after the 25-year-old had sent video footage to American college football programs. “He was so nervous when he first got here. He punted a 39- or 40-yarder on his first try in practice and was afraid we’d be disappointed.”

That first kick came on a day when Chapman-Brown was dog-tired after a long journey from Sydney. That journey started with a will to attend college and to boldly step into what he hopes will be a career. Despite not knowing the rules of the game or how to put on his pads, and with no formal training from a football coach, Chapman-Brown has aspirations of becoming an NFL punter.

“In my situation, I knew college football would give me the best opportunity to show what I can do,” the engaging Australian import says. “Notre Dame is a wonderful fit for me, both academically and for what I want to do in this game.”

For Chapman-Brown, the fit almost seems to be destiny. When he arrived on campus and reported to the Falcon locker room, the team had assigned him jersey number 94, not a traditional set of digits for a punter, since most every other non-lineman number had already been handed out.

“It was the weirdest thing,” Chapman-Brown says. “I can’t explain it but I have always liked the number 94. It has come up in my life many times. I don’t know, I just like that number and when it was randomly given to me here, I just felt really right about my decision.”

Now, on fourth downs in NDC games, coach Howard has no reservations about calling Chapman-Brown’s number. And neither Howard nor anyone else -- including Chapman-Brown’s family who awakes at four in the morning to listen to NDC games online -- would be surprised if a rocket off the Falcon punter’s leg soared into the autumn sky, bounced off the turf and came to rest 94 yards away.

Skip Snow is the sports information director at Notre Dame College.

E.g., 06/23/19
E.g., 06/23/19