Houston punter Dane Roy is an old man among his teammates. This is how the Aussie finds a way to fit in.
His life before football is what initially made headlines but make no mistake, Dane Roy of Houston is an impressive football player, especially considering he's only been playing—er, punting—for a couple years. Before the Houston Cougars host No. 6 Louisville in what was originally billed as the game of Week 12, the 27-year-old freshman chatted with Campus Rush about his journey to the states, dad jokes and underrated ice cream flavors.
Lindsay Schnell: Before you took up American football, you played Australian rules football—what prompted you go to ProKick Australia, where lots of players have been noticed by American universities, and learn the art of punting?
Dane Roy: It was actually a bit of fate. I was in a football club and had a teammate with a brother who was playing at a junior college in California. I had a look at his highlights and I thought, "That's not so special, I could do that." ProKick reached out to me and told me about the pathway to get to America, that's straight to the NFL or with a college team. Then they told me the price tag it came with and I was like, uh, I don't really have any money, I just bought a house.
Then a couple months later, I won a big kicking competition that ProKick was sponsoring, won that in front of 100,000 people at Australian Football League Grand Final Day, which is like our version of the Super Bowl. So that gave me a pathway in without having to pay full price. I went to America on holiday that I won as part of the prize … and I realized (punting) was something I wanted to do. I met Ray Guy there and he taught me the different punts, a few tricks of the trade of how to keep your body in shape. Then I worked my butt off from December through February trying to get in the best shape and got a call from Houston in that time, offering me a full scholarship.
LS: When Houston called you, what did you know about that program and that city?
DR: I didn't know anything, really. I had to google where Houston was. I knew it was in Texas, and I knew the space stuff [NASA] happened there, but I didn't know it was the fourth largest city in America. I wanted to go to a bigger city because my partner, she's a nurse and midwife, and I wanted to make sure she could get employment. We would have struggled to find that in a small town.
LS: To you, what is the weirdest thing about American rules football?
DR: Well they've got A LOT of rules. There are rules and stats for everything, but I love stats so that's cool. One thing about the rules that I don't get is that they throw yellow flags all the time, and I don't know who it's for or who it's against. I'll run up and down the sideline like, "Is that a good yellow flag or a bad yellow flag?!" I reckon they need a yellow flag for the offense and maybe a green flag for the defense. That would help clean it up.
LS: What's the weirdest thing about America?
DR: Their love for guns. Everyone loves guns here. They've got a love for it that's just unrivaled. You try to tell people that they don't need guns, and they get really offended. They're like, "No, no, I'm protecting myself from other people with guns." (Laughs.) It's a controversial subject here.
LS: What do you miss most about Australia?
DR: The roads. The roads in Australia are much smoother than they are here in Houston. But they're fixing the roads, apparently, because of the Super Bowl coming up, so that's a good investment by the local council.
LS: What's the best part about American culture, or something you wish other countries would adopt?
DR: The best part about American culture is the serving size. The food here is HUGE.
LS: Because you're 6' 7", I feel obligated to ask: Why not basketball?
DR: (Laughs) I played basketball as a junior. I played 100-something games. I just don't like basketball too much. It got too serious. When I went to a game, my dad dropped me off, and I'd get in the gym and look around and the dads were taking the shoes off the kids and putting tape on them and I'm like, "You're really taking it this serious? We're not even at a high level!"
LS: How do you describe the "H Town Takeover" to family and friends back in Australia?
DR: College football is huge in America. We have nothing to compare it to in Australia. It's almost like the finals of an AFL game but even then, there are so many more people in college (stadiums). It was great because my mom and dad and girlfriend could be present at my first game when we played Oklahoma. At kickoff the crowd was huge, we had the big Cougar walk, and they got to experience first-hand the marching band and how huge the college football scene is. That saved me explaining it because really, words can't do it justice.
LS: It's well known that you used to be an ice cream salesman. So in your professional opinion, what is the most underrated flavor of ice cream?
DR: I reckon banana is underrated. It's not very popular amongst the masses. They like their chocolates and their mints—I'm a mint fan myself. But banana doesn't get enough credit for how good it is. The banana in Australia, anyway.
LS: Do you have any other unconventional jobs in your past? Or would you like to try anything else?
DR: Well I've had A LOT of jobs. I was a blueberry picker for my first-ever job. And it was very short-lived because you get $5 a bucket, so you have to put in work to get work; it wasn't paid by the hour. My friend made like $25 one day and I only filled like half a bucket so that wasn't too fun. Then I was a bartender once I was 18, because you have to be 18 to sell and consume alcohol in Australia. Then I worked at a checkout at a grocery store for a long time, then I got too tall for checkout, so I moved to stacking shelves.
Hmm, what else? I worked for the government for about a year in the taxation department. My dad worked there so he helped me get a job … and then my last job I had was ice cream sales. But I'm a major in advertising so now I have to work out how to get a job there.
LS: How do you get too tall for check out? Did your head hit the ceiling or something?
DR: No it was just my back. Lifting and bending over and scanning things, it hurt my back. I didn't want to lift a six-pack of Coke too many times. It doesn't really matter anymore though, because I spend a lot of time in the weight room now, so my back is really strong.
LS: As a specialist, you get to spend a lot of time watching the game — what's the craziest thing you've seen from the sideline this year?
DR: Probably one of Linell Bonner's catches. He's got sticky fingers, he's like Spider Man. Some of the third downs we've had, it's third and long and you don't expect them to complete it because the ball looks like it's been thrown out of bounds and you're getting ready to run out there and it turns out Linell's caught it … One of those catches by Linell made ESPN Top 10, when he jumped out of the back of the end zone. That was crazy, ridiculous, you wouldn't even see someone do that in Madden.
LS: You're 27, which is sort of ancient for a college football player … do you have anything in common with your 18-year-old teammates?
DR: (Laughs.) We all love to laugh and be immature when we just muck around in the locker room. Everyone loves to play FIFA, and watch movies. But sometimes, I've gotta pull some of these lads in line and give them a clip over the ears, so we don't all get in trouble.
LS: I saw your Twitter post about races that end in a tie. In America, that's what we'd call the ultimate dad joke. Are Dad Jokes a thing in Australia, too? Is that something that translates internationally?
DR: (Laughs) Oh boy, I've got another joke coming up for next week, so keep your eyes open for that one. I'm king of dad jokes. Back home, I have a friend who would make dad jokes and he wasn't even a dad yet and I was like, I want to be like that guy. I'm just preparing for when the time comes.
I like subtle jokes, and some guys didn't get (the tie joke). So they kept watching and then all the sudden they just started laughing because the punchline finally clicked. I've got a few slow guys around me.
LS: What other position in football do you think you'd excel at?
DR: Probably wide receiver, because I'm really quick, and really good with catching balls.... O.K., I'm probably not actually that quick.