From selling ice cream, to the NFL? Aussie punter Dane Roy on draft radars

Dane Roy doesn't hold lofty expectations for his own draft stock going into the 2020 NFL draft this week.

His perspective is humble and hopeful, knowing that for a punter, even one coming off a season in which he broke University of Houston Cougars records and finished as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award as college football's best punter, the chances of hearing his named called is slight.

The 31-year-old from Bunyip, Victoria, knows full well that punters are seldom selected in the draft, and are instead more likely to be picked up as an undrafted free agent after the action has died down.

His prospects of making it onto a team, or at least a team's practice squad, are real, however, after the 6-foot-7 country product's agent has heard from a number of NFC teams that could look to bring him in for a shot at making their roster.

"The Falcons, Cowboys, Bears and the Packers are maybe going to extend a lifeline to me ... we'll see how we go during the draft and see where my agent wants to take me after that," Roy told ESPN.

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Australian punters aren't a new thing to the NFL: Michael Dickson, Cameron Johnston, Jordan Berry and Mitch Wishnowsky are all active in the league; but being on the other side of 30 makes Roy unique.

Despite his age, and with it, a life that includes being an ice-cream salesman and winning a longest punt competition in front of 100,000 fans at the MCG on AFL Grand Final day, NFL teams haven't been put off by the prospect of picking up a 31-year-old; after all, punters are on the field for perhaps just five or six times the entire game.

"If you can do the job, you're the right person for the job; if you don't do the job, [they'll] just find someone else, regardless of how old they are," Roy said.

The NFL hopeful said this opportunity of a lifetime had come at just the right stage, noting that he might not have been mature enough to take it seriously had his college football chance come sooner.

"I'd be too young to understand what I was about to get into and I wouldn't be taking advantage of the situation that I'm in," he said.

"I know that now I'm not going to let anything slip by without giving it a decent crack."

And with that maturity came the idea to reach out to fellow Aussies in the league, including Berry, a six-year veteran with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I had a chat to Jordan about some coaching when I was over in the States," Roy told ESPN. "I sent him some film and he changed some stuff about the way I hit the ball, and it's actually made me a bit more consistent

"Right at the very start I was like, 'If I play my cards right I could end up be in the NFL.' I'm a boy from Bunyip not doing a lot, and then all of a sudden [I could] get thrust into the spotlight and I'm like, 'Wow, this could be an actual, realistic thing.'

"Now I'm even closer to that dream ... if I get on a practice squad or a minicamp tryout, if I just do the right thing at the right time, I could find myself on a team. It's crazy to think that, but it's awesome at the same time. It just shows you with the right attitude and a bit of luck here and there you can take yourself anywhere."

The buildup to this year's draft and free agency hasn't been normal, especially for Roy, who finds himself stuck in Melbourne due to the COVID-19 pandemic while other NFL hopefuls are Stateside, where, in some areas, there seems to be a more casual approach to isolation.

And if there were one place a 6-7 man doesn't want to find himself during isolation, it's in a cramped one-bedroom apartment.

"It's been a crazy couple of weeks," he said. "[My] original plan was to come back at the start of February, have my bucks day, keep practising with Prokick Australia, work out, and get married as well. "All of it was going great, got married to a beautiful bride, and had a great day as well. And then about a week after that, everything started crumbling to the ground and everything was locked up.

"I'm in a one-bedroom apartment in Prahran, and it's tiny and it's now my gym. I'm finding it hard to lie down and do full body stuff because there's no room. But you've got to make do with the situation you're in, and I'm lucky to have a roof over my head."

Roy said it was hard being so far away from teams and scouts, noting that if he was to schedule a meeting he'd prefer to do it in person to better showcase his personality.

"You want to meet face to face because once I meet people I give off a different vibe than I do on Zoom chats and FaceTimes and all that. You want people to see the real you."

It's a personality that proved popular at Houston, where he fought hard to become one of the locker room's DJs after he decided there were "too many terrible songs" being played pregame.

"I've got a special locker-room playlist. There's some Young Thug on that, some Drake, and there's a few Houston rappers from the '90s, I think it's Fat Pat, [but] I've chucked on some Paul Kelly with All the Dumb Things and a bit of INXS Devil Inside ... and there's a few random [Australian] songs in there," he said.

"I'll chuck them on and the guys are like, 'What is this?' and I say, 'Well, I just thought I'd try it out just in case you liked it.'"

Even though Roy doesn't hold high hopes of having his own name called out during the draft, he said he would still be tuning in to see when teammate offensive tackle Josh Jones gets picked, potentially with some homemade chicken nuggets in his lap.

"In previous years gone by during the draft I've been sitting in some classes back in Houston and I'd always have one screen on my computer with the draft, and the other screen with the homework I'm meant to be doing," Roy said.

"I'll definitely be tuned in because I want to see where Jones goes. I reckon he'll be a first-round draft pick."