A SHIFT in football focus has reaped the ultimate reward for former Strathfieldsaye and Essendon VFL midfielder Jamieson Sheahan.
The 22-year-old has accepted a full three-year scholarship at the University of California at Berkeley, where he will became the latest Australian to join the college football ranks as a punter.
Sheahan becomes the third Bendigonian since 2013 to sign with a US college program, following in the footsteps of Sam Irwin-Hill (City College of San Francisco and University of Arkansas) and Jack Bouwmeester (Michigan State).
A BFNL premiership player with Strathfieldsaye in 2017, Sheahan will move to UC Berkeley early in the new year and says he can't get wait to get started both in the classroom and on the football field.
"It's been a long process, but I am really looking forward to getting over there in a few weeks and getting started," he said.
"It's going to be an exciting three years and an opportunity I am really excited about."
Sheahan has spent the 12 months honing his punting craft under the tutelage of Prokick Australia coaches Nathan Chapman and Johnny Smith, after playing with Essendon's VFL side in 2018.
Despite being noted as a big kick of the football during his Australian rules days, Sheahan admitted his earliest forays into punting had not exactly filled him with confidence for what lay ahead.
"Kicking was always my strong point playing football ... I used to kick in from full back a lot and could probably kick it 55 to 60 metres," he said.
"But when I first auditioned I was really bad - I was terrible. I could not kick anything properly.
"Nathan wanted me to kick a spiral and I couldn't do it. It's a really technical process and it takes time to get it right.
"It took me a couple of months, but I felt I have got the hang of it."
With the ranks of Australians playing and signing with US colleges seemingly growing by the week, Sheahan was one of about 40 athletes auditioning with Prokick Australia during this year in the hopes of attracting interest.
"Cal Berkeley flew dad (Norm) and I over on November 17 to watch a game, which they call an 'official visit'. They flew me out to see the facilities and meet the coaches," he said.
"It was a great experience, albeit Cal got beaten by USC, who had (former Richmond AFL player) Ben Griffiths punting in the game.
"I think there is something like 65 Aussies in college football at the moment across the country - lots in California and lots in Texas. It will be great having those connections."
Sheahan, who played TAC Cup with Geelong Falcons while studying at Geelong Grammar, joins a UC Berkeley team very much on the improve and preparing for its second-straight bowl appearance.
The Golden Bears will play Illinois in the Redbox Bowl on New Year's Eve (Australian time).
The game will be played at Levi's Stadium, home of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.
UC Berkeley, which plays in the Pac 12 conference alongside the likes of national number six-ranked Oregon, Utah (ranked 11th), USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Washington, Washington State, Colorado and Stanford, finished the season with a 7-5 record under second-year coach Justin Wilcox.
It followed a 7-6 record in the 2018 season, which came on the heels of consecutive losing seasons.
Sheahan, who will major in economics and business administration, is not due to leave for the United States until January 15, but will be watching the bowl game on television.
Enjoying a few weeks back in Bendigo, Sheahan said he had been overwhelmed by the support of family and friends ahead of his new adventure.
"It will be sad leaving the family behind, we've just had a nice family gathering for Christmas, so there will be some sadness moving away," he said.
"But the support from people in Bendigo and Geelong and Melbourne, it's just been overwhelming.
"It means a lot."
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.