Ararat punting sensation Paddy Turner is relishing his time playing college football in the United States, representing Colorado State University.
The Colorado State Rams football program is a member of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision and the Mountain West Conference.
Turner left for America in August of 2021, where he joined the University of Nevada on a full scholarship; however, due to his head coach and punting coach moving to Colorado State University, he didn't want to "take the risk" of a new coach coming in and not giving him a chance.
"I absolutely loved my time at Nevada. It was such a great program and something I was honoured to be a part of," he said.
"It was those two coaches who brought me across the world, so I thought I would put my name in the transfer portal (free agency) and hopefully, they have that faith in me again to pick me up again.
"It was a bit of a risk but I thought they have already taken a chance on me once, if I put my name out there hopefully they take it again."
During his college break, Turner has returned home to Ararat for the first time in nine and has been busy giving back to the community.
"It has been a long stint which got tough at times but it is very good to be home to see my family and friends," he said.
"Ararat has been a massive support for me, not just the footy club (Ararat Rats), but the community has been very supportive of my journey.
"I have always had a lot of comfort being able to come back to Ararat and have that support."
On May 19, Turner helped out with the Ararat Auskick and the following day, he visited the students at Ararat West Primary to give an insight into his journey.
"It was good fun, I was just trying to give back to where I have been in the past," he said.
"I was at Ararat West myself so going back and seeing a few familiar faces teaching and the future of our community was really humbling to be able to speak to them."
Turner will head back to America on June 1 to participate in pre-season training in the lead up to the upcoming NCAA Division I football season.
"Our pre-season is very full on, there is six to eight hour a day of conditioning, weights and meetings," Turner explained.
"Everyone lives and breathes football; it is definitely a good environment to be in. It is definitely a professional standard.
"Our season only goes for 12 weeks, but every other time after that, we are working our butts off to be better.
"On September 3 we start our season against Michigan in front of over 100,000 people which will be special for sure."
Paddy is the son of former Richmond great Scott Turner, who played 144 games and kicked three goals from 1991 to 1999.
Turner always wanted to follow in his father's footsteps growing up; however, despite playing for the Greater Western Victoria Rebels in the TAC Cup, an AFL career was not to be.
He then turned to athletics in 2017, with the 400-metre restricted Ballarat Gift among his achievements before injuries made him re-evaluate his future.
"My main focus back here in Ararat was always football at the next level or running, but sport is not for forever so I decided to focus on my schooling and my academics," Turner said.
"I have always been a pretty firm believer of when one door closes, another door opens.
"When ProKick Australia contacted me, it was a win-win as I was able to be a student-athlete and get a degree.
"As a punter I am a little bit safer if I was to play Australian Rules Football or pursue athletics as a punter."
ProKick Australia was developed in 2007 to help guide and transition Australian athletes to perform at the College and NFL level.
ProKick took some videos of Turner punting the ball and sent it to schools across America, with the University of Nevada ultimately offering him a scholarship.
Turner started studying a Bachelor of Education in Ballarat; however, since transferring to America, he has switched courses and is majoring in Business and Sports Management.
"It was what I ended up going to university for originally then I stumbled into the teaching degree," he said.
"It was always in the back of my mind, it worked out the way it was supposed to I guess."
In September, Turner will be a junior at Colorado State and is two years away from finishing his degree and potentially nominating for the NFL draft.
"College life in America is portrayed in movies and TV, It is definitely full on, it is not for the light hearted," he said.
"Everyone lives and breathes football, and to be a part of that is very special.
"The degree is my main focus at the moment and I am just enjoying my football, I am taking it week by week and if the chance does come up for the NFL then that's a bonus."
Turner urged Ararat residents to be optimistic about their future and not to be apprehensive about taking risks.
"When one door closes you don't know what will happen next, you might need to wait for another door to open, you might need to break it down," he said.
"There is always going to be another opportunity, whether it is in the same field or a completely different field.
"If there is an opportunity there, take the risk and take it. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and 10 years ago I definitely wouldn't have projected this, that's for sure."
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