When Kentucky's new punter Max Duffy first came to Lexington in January of 2018, he was under the impression that the weather in his new home would be tolerable.
Where Duffy is from in Perth, Australia, the average temperature in January is 76 degrees. Perth’s coldest month is in July, when the average temperature is 55 degrees.
It never snows in Perth, so Duffy saw snow for the first time in Kentucky in January.
“I was like, ‘Alright, Kentucky sounds pretty good, won’t be too cold,’ came over here, it was like the most snow I’ve ever seen in my life,” Duffy said at Media Day. “I definitely like the summer time, I’m going to struggle during the winter.”
The weather is just one of the things Duffy has learned to adapt to in his almost eight months of time spent in the United States. Of course, Duffy came to Lexington to be the starting punter for the Cats in the fall, not to experience the cultural differences, so the weather has been the least of his worries.
Prior to arriving in Lexington, Duffy spent two years playing in the Australian Football League for the Fermantle Dockers. He also spent the eight months prior to coming to UK with Prokick Australia under the coaches Nathan Chapman and John Smith.
Because of his previous experiences punting and kicking a ball, Duffy said that he has transitioned well in learning how to kick an American football. The biggest challenge for him has been to learn the game itself and what’s going on around him.
“You kind of have to learn this game but besides from that, there’s not a lot of difference, it’s just what we do back home,” Duffy said.
While adjusting to American football has been easier than expected for Duffy, his biggest challenge might be learning to balance school and sports, since he did not have to do that in Australia.
In the United States, the typical way to reach the NFL is to go to college for three to four years, improve your football skills while making good grades then be drafted if you are talented enough.
The process is completely different in Australia. College and sports are not correlated, so if someone in Australia wants to be a professional athlete, college is not an option.
“If you go to a university back home, you’re going there definitely to get a degree, that’s all you’re going for, there’s no college sports,” Duffy said.
Duffy had professional football aspirations, so he worked his way to the AFL, where he would make his first appearance for Fermantle in 2014. While playing for the Dockers, Duffy said he was able to take some classes on the side, but like any other professional athlete, his main focus was sports.
Duffy’s career did not last long, as he only played three games before being cut from Fermantle at the end of 2015. Being cut left him with him with no real professional football opportunities, little education and no real clear routes at the age of 22.
Duffy had a brief stint with West Perth’s Football Club before joining Prokick Australia to get him ready for American football. If it weren’t for the scholarship offered by Kentucky, Duffy is not really sure what he would be doing right now.
“You’re able to make money straight away [playing professionally] but you lose that education and for a person like me that was in the system for three years and then you end up getting cut, you really come out with nothing,” Duffy said. “You come out with a little bit of money maybe behind you but you really don’t come out with an education, you got to start all over again. That’s why I’m 25 and I’m in college.”
It’s because of Duffy’s experience that he hopes Australia adopts the American collegiate sports system, where talented athletes work to become professional while getting an education, and if the sports career does not work out, they always have the degree to fall back on.
“I think it’d be great if Australia took this on just so guys could get educated before they go on to the professional leagues,” Duffy said.
That won’t be an option for Duffy, who has fully immersed himself into the style of American football and the teammates with which he will share the field.
Duffy may be from another country and a couple years older than this year’s senior class, but he has had no trouble blending in with his teammates, even the ones who don’t know anything about Australian culture.
“Tristan [Yeomans] always gets into me about saying aluminum (al-a-min-ee-um), instead of aluminum and all that,” Duffy said. “They always ask me dumb Australian questions about kangaroos and things like that. It’s all been good fun, it’s actually been really enjoyable.”
Another enjoyable moment Duffy predicts will be the first time he steps on to Kroger Field for his first punt. He said he expects to be nervous but is excited for the opportunity.
“That’s what we play for, that’s what we do all the training for, it’s not something to fret, it’s just something to look forward to and that’s the opportunity I want,” Duffy said.