It was 2013 when former Perth Demons reserves player Mitch Wishnowsky, was fishing off a Kwinana Jetty and received the phone call that turned his world upside down.
Injury had been hindering Wishnowsky with his performance in the WAFL and at work as a glazier.
“I turned to drinking beers and playing flag football on Sundays with friends, which by luck, [I met] Coach Craig Wilson and [he started] me off on my new journey,” he said.
Soon he was seeing the field as a receiver with the Curtin Saints under the leadership of Wilson.
Wilson pulled the strings for Wishnowsky to expect a call from Prokick Australia talent scouter John Smith.
Prokick Australia is a specialist facility based on the east coast focused on prepping young talent to perform as punters and kickers in the American league of football. Wishnowsky says he’s indebted to Coach Wilson in a special way.
“[Wilson] had no benefit to helping me achieve my dream other than helping out someone he hardly knew,” he said.
“Craig is a great bloke and I owe him a fair few cold ones”.
John Smith spent time as a free agent kicker during the 1980s for the NFL and the Canadian counter-part league, the CFL.
“Let’s not fuck about—move to Melbourne and I will change your life” Smith said to Wishnowsky over the phone.
Wishnowsky said his parents looked at him like he was ‘nuts’, until he quit his job and booked his flight to the east coast.
“[Smith] didn’t want small talk, he simply gave me an option and advised me to take it,” said Mitch.
After participating in the Prokick Australia program, Wishnowsky spent time punting for the Vaqueros at Santa Barbara Community College in 2014, where he managed to place 47% of his punts within the 20-yard line as a freshman.
Wishnowsky is a standout player for the PAC-12 Utah Utes football team and was the recipient of the Ray Guy Award for Punter of the Year in 2016. The recipient of the award in 2015 and 2014 were given to fellow Australian, Tom Hackett, who recently spent time with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent.
Wishnowsky is loving his time in Utah.
“I love the states and the people,” he said.
“I can’t think of any real challenges other than my first day in the states there was a mass shooting outside my front door—that was an odd welcoming.”
Though playing for the Saints at Curtin University was short-lived, Wishnowsky said it played a big role in his journey.
“[It was] my first taste of the new sport—I basically knew nothing but it grabbed me and I instantly loved it” he said.
This year for the Utes, Wishnowsky has stepped up to the role of a captain and hopes to make self-improvement.
“I have a couple more years at Utah and I would love to continue the elite special teams traditions that we have here,” he said.
“I’m a captain this year but I’m not a very vocal person so I would also like to get better as a leader”.
Wishnowsky’s journey has been face paced and uphill, but it has resonated an outlook of being a dream chaser.
“Working in a warehouse will be there when your 50—follow your dreams while you can,” he said.
Today, the Gridiron West competition in WA is tougher than ever, boasting an eight-team roster.
With programs in place for state and international playing opportunities, Mitch Wishnowsky paves a playing path for many young Australian gridiron players aspiring to reach the NFL.