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Former Ute’s biggest regret led him to become an award-winning punter

Tom Hackett, former University of Utah punter, sits down with Scott Mitchell to talk about how he ended up in the United States,

A recognizable face to college football fans in Utah and throughout the Pac-12 Conference Tom Hackett sat down with another former Ute, Scott Mitchell, to talk about how an Australian teenager with poor test scores ended up an award-winning punter. Hackett gives the credit to a Youtube video and a big risk taken by Jay Hill, former University of Utah assistant and current head coach at Weber State University.

Hackett told Mitchell, aside from family members, Hill was the single, biggest influence on his life. “He’s the one that gave me the chance.”

It all began with what Hackett claimed is his truest love, australian rules football, or as he calls it, “footy.” Australian rules football is similar to american football in that the team that scores the most points wins and that is about where the similarities end. We won’t dive into the differences here.

Although Hackett fell in love with australian rules football, he admits his biggest regret is that he didn’t have the drive to work hard enough during the offseason to play at a professional level in Australia. Mitchell then asked what he was up to instead as a teenager in Australia.

To which he answered, “You know what I would do Scotty … I would enjoy some beverages of choice.”

Remember, the legal age to drink in Australia is 18, meaning during the last year of high school many teens are celebrating the “big birthday.”

In Australia, similar to America, at the end of high school, you take tests and the scores determine where you can go to college. The difference is that in Australia you only get one chance.

During the interview, Hackett told the story of his dad learning how he scored on the tests. “I think he knew this wasn’t going to go well.”

Hackett describes his dad sitting in his room at 6:00 a.m., staring at him, waiting for the scores to come through. Neither Hackett or his father were happy with the scores.

“My dad, bless his soul, stands up, stares at me, nods his head … walks out the door,” said Hackett.

Hackett doesn’t regret the poor test scores because they are the reason he ended up in a program called Prokick Australia after hearing about australian athletes learning to punt and going to the United States to play in the NFL.

Hackett was in the Prokick Australia program for 13 months, but it was seven months before he could “turn over” an American football. When he finally learned and started to improve coaches at Pro Kick Australia started calling coaches in the United States and putting film of Hackett on Youtube.

This is where coach Jay Hill took the risk. Hackett told Mitchell about when coach Hill told Kyle Whittingham, head coach at The University of Utah, he wanted to go to Australia to find a punter. Hill flew to Australia and Hackett came back with him, but because of NCAA rules, Hill couldn’t work out with or even watch Hackett punt. Hill only saw film of Hackett and other athletes in the program punting.

Hackett said coach Whittingham didn’t know his name for about six months and through his first few games Hackett had no idea what was happening on the field and he “didn’t really care.”

Hackett eventually learned the rules and found success with the Utes. He won Pac12 special teams player of the week during his first game against BYU and two Ray Guy Awards.

Hackett’s last season with the University of Utah was 2015. He currently hosts a podcast with another University of Utah football alumni, Andy Phillips, called Special Forces Gang (SFG)  They talk all things Utah football and throw in some fun life stories as well.

As for NFL aspirations, Hackett told Mitchell he still has an agent and knows which teams are in need at the punting position.

For conversations like this one and commentary on things happening in the world of sports subscribe to Helmets Off wherever you get your podcasts.