Elite sporting pedigree to benefit Mason Fletcher's college football journey

Mason Fletcher has been around elite sport his entire life - his father Dustin retired from the AFL after 400 games in 2015, and there was genuine talk for a while that their careers may even have overlapped, should Mason have taken up the sport.

But back injuries forced the son of a great to rethink a potential career in Aussie rules, and he last week committed as a punter for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats in the United States as his dream shifted to college football, and eventually the NFL.

According to Nathan Chapman, head coach at ProKick -- the preeminent school for teaching Aussies how to kick the pigskin -- the transition should be easier for the younger Fletcher considering he grew up in an elite sporting household.

"It's an enormous help - [college football] is a daily lesson in the environment of pro sport ... and [Mason] would have seen his dad go through it which gives him an insight into what he'll need to continue to do," Chapman, a one-time NFL listed punter and eight year veteran of the AFL, told ESPN.

"He'll probably be more at ease with it having seen his father go through it and be successful, and now he gets the chance. It's absolutely a benefit being from a family who has been around it, playing at such a high level for so long."

It's not just the right mindset that Fletcher will take over to the Bearcats, a Division I team playing in the hotly-contested American Athletic Conference. Chapman said the 19-year-old who stands at 6-foot-7 has worked hard on transitioning his kicking style from a 'footy' look to an American football technique to ensure he'll be a successful college punter.

"Mason's a tremendous kick of the ball so he's gong to first of all work hard to fill the shoes of [incumbent Cincinnati punter] Jimmy Smith when he finishes, but also step up and continue on doing a great job for the Bearcats because they're a good team," Chapman said.

"He probably spent a couple of months really challenging himself to get his leg swing right and the ball drop height sorted, and it was interesting to watch. There was a little frustration as he wanted to kick the ball higher, but watching him go through that journey was really good to see.

"He just kept going and got to the stage where he could put together some really good film to show to the coaches, and [it showed] with more work under him, it's going to come together pretty well."

Chapman added that unlike many punters in college football and in the NFL, Fletcher is tall - exceptionally so for the position, and it presented some challenges, especially in terms of his technical and physical development.

But over time, he's worked on his shortcomings and has done all he can to ensure he'll "seamlessly slot into American football".

"He's tall, but like his dad never really carried much weight, so you have to be mindful of what his body is going to do and how that might develop after more years in the American style gym," he said. "They like size, they like them to be heavy.

"Technically he's got everything there, not unlike the other guys. Can he catch a ball and jump a bit higher? Yep, absolutely, but there's also a long way to the ground, so there are pros and cons for everything.

"He had a pretty natural kick on him, we've just had to tidy it up a bit and work with it and will continue to do so, but from where he was day one, he's been tremendous in his work ethic to do what he needs to do, to change things mechanically and rebuild the muscle memory to now kick the American ball, which is where half the battle is.

"I've been really impressed with him so far, and now he knows where he is going to go ... but [there is] work still to be done."

And Chapman credits Mason's parents for getting behind their son's dream, despite some expectation that junior would follow senior's footsteps into footy - after all, he did train with the Bombers for a while as he contemplated pulling on the red sash.

"We like to know what the motives are for every player, and the AFL world is a great industry to be in and play in and strive for -- it's a great game, a fun game, explosive, exciting and a great developer of physical skill -- but not many guys get to do it at the top end," Chapman said.

"I think if you're fortunate enough to have a decision about which way you want to go, if your heart is pulling you in a different direction and you have family support, it's great."

As for Dustin himself? Chapman says he never formally discussed a move overseas despite the 400-gamer's notorious superboot.

"[We never chatted] with Dustin himself. We have many chats with players' managers who really just want to know more about it ... we had a chat with his management, but he was pretty locked in and loved what he was doing at Essendon, so I don't think there was any fear of him leaving," Chapman said.

"Could he have done it? Absolutely. Did he have the leg for it? Absolutely. But I think he probably made the right choice to stay there and continue to play [at the Bombers]."