Although Jordan Mailata turned heads during the NFL preseason, it’s a different Australian that has Eagles fans excited after week 1 of the regular season. Twenty- six year old punter Cameron Johnston had a stellar debut for the Eagles against the Atlanta Falcons, finishing with 313 yards on only six punts. This average of 52.2 yards indicates a great start to the young journeyman’s career. Looking back at Johnston’s career, it’s not hard to see why.
After being drafted in 2010 by the Melbourne Demons of the Australian Football League, Johnston never got to play for them. Instead, he played in six games for the Casey Scorpions of the Victorian Football League. Realizing that he had an insane leg and NFL potential, Johnston decided to train under Nathan Chapman at Prokick Australia in Melbourne. After several months of hard training, Johnston was finally able to make the transition to american football. A perfect opportunity awaited him at Ohio State University, where Johnston was gifted a full ride scholarship and the opportunity to punt for one of the premier college football powerhouses.
When he first arrived at Ohio State as a twenty-one year old, Johnston did not take long to adjust. In his freshman collegiate season, the Aussie punter averaged a 44.0 yard net punt average, ranking first overall in the BIG Ten conference. Johnston steadily improved and during the 2016 season, he earned the Eddleman-Fields Big Ten Punter of the year award. Although his accolades didn’t earn him a name card in the 2017 NFL Draft, Johnston was able to sign a reserve/future contract in early 2018 to compete to be the starting punter.
Getting the opportunity to sit back for a year and learn from Donnie Jones was essential in Johnston’s development.
“He was a great punter,” Johnston said. “It was big to be able to learn from him, the punting and the holding and just the tips that he had. He had that long of a career and being that successful, you try to learn as much as you can.”
In the 2018 preseason, Johnston finally had the chance to show off his leg. In the very first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Johnston booted an 81 yard punt (which was later called back for a penalty). This was enough to convince Eagles special team coach John DeFilippo to conclude:
“I’m excited about him. I think he’s on the right track, he’s got to continue to work and continue to grow and we’ve got to continue to improve. But right now I would say I’m really encouraged by what he’s doing.” (2)
Looking ahead, Johnston projects very well for the Eagles. In his official NFL debut, Johnston had 4 punts over 50 yards, showing that he can be consistent and powerful. Eagles fans are expecting the Aussie to take over punting duties from the great Donnie Jones. So far, Johnston has shown he can do that and more. We just have to wait to find out how good he can be.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke