Wollongong product Jordan Stalker shows off his Gardner-Webb University headgear.American football
Jarryd Hayne is dominating newspaper headlines around Australia and the US this week as his likely NFL debut edges closer.
But there’s another Australian athlete flying under the radar as he quietly works towards his own American football fairytale.
Wollongong’s Jordan Stalker is about to begin his third season with US college Gardner-Webb.
The 21-year-old giant was granted a scholarship to the university after completing his higher school certificate at Cedars Christian College in 2011.
If all goes to plan, Stalker will be picked up by an NFL club during his senior year in 2016.
‘‘He’s ticking all those boxes, he’s up there in all of them,’’ Stalker’s mother Jane said.
‘‘There’s no reason why he couldn’t make an NFL list.’’
Stalker – who stands at 195 centimetres tall and weighs more than 134 kilograms – played rugby union from a young age with Woonona Shamrocks.
It wasn’t until late-2010 that he was persuaded to switch codes.
And once he did, it didn’t take long to attract the attention of some important people.
‘‘I remember him coming up to me and saying ’mum I think I’m going to try gridiron’, and I said ’have we even got gridiron in Australia?’,’’ Jane Stalker recalled.
‘‘And I said go for it, if that’s what he wants to do he should go for it.
‘‘He walked onto the practice field, and I remember his coach at the time just said ’oh my god’.
‘‘He’s six foot five (inches), he’s a unit.
‘‘He just knew this was what he wanted to do.’’
A mere few months after throwing the ‘‘pig skin’’ for the first time with Wollongong Mustangs, Stalker was made captain of NSW’s junior representative team.
He was then chosen to captain Australia, and sent to Texas for a prestigious IFAF world training camp.
It was then that he realised the possibility of making a career in American football wasn’t so far-fetched.
Stalker is an offensive linesman for the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs and plays left tackle position with the division one college team.
He has just completed the pre-season summer training and is preparing for the opening game of the season on September 5.
His mother, father, sister, brother-in-law, and two close friends are planning to travel to the US later this year to watch the Bulldogs.
When they can’t be in the stand to watch his games, Stalker’s family gets up at all hours of the morning to live stream the action.
In two years’ time, they could be watching Stalker going head-to-head with fellow Aussie convert Hayne.
Source: Illawarra Mercury