A Scottish man is one step closer to his dream of playing in the NFL after signing a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Browns.
Jamie Gillan, nicknamed the Scottish Hammer, has been rewarded for making a lasting impression with the Browns during a private pre-draft workout.
Gillan told The Scotsman: “Me and the whole family are very happy, it was a really fun weekend. But this is just the beginning. I have to still make a team, keep passing tests with the next step being rookie camp.
“I would never have expected this to happen when I moved from Scotland as a teenager, but I have been working very hard for this opportunity.”
It is a remarkable rise for the 21-year-old punter, who began his life in the Highlands, near Inverness, enjoying success playing rugby as part of the under-16s Scottish Schools Cup.
He went to Merchiston Castle School for three years on a sports scholarship before deciding to finish his school education over in the United States when his father transferred with the RAF. He went to Leonardtown High School to complete his secondary education where he excelled in several sports, opening the door for him to enrol in American football.
Gillan told UK-based American Football website Ninety-Nine Yards: “I was still playing rugby at the time, then in my last year there I chose to play soccer [football] and rugby at the same time. Soon I realised that the American football kicker and punter was not very good, so I spoke to the coach called Brian Woodburn, who then watched my kicks and put me on the team. My friend saw a Facebook post that University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff needed a kicker. As a result, I simply put my highlights tape into the post and they called me that day and offered me a full scholarship. Therefore, football became the dream from then on.”
In his college career, Gillan handled kick-off, punt, field goal and extra point duties for the Golden Lions.
NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero described Gillan as potentially the next Michael Dickson – a Seattle Seahawks punter – after popping four balls in practice.
Gillan’s love for American football has continued to grow. He will look to emulate Greenock-born former American football placekicker Lawrence Tynes, who won the Superbowl twice in the 2007 and 2011 seasons.
Gillan said: “Becoming a pro American footballer would mean a lot to me and my family. I have invested my life into the sport and worked so hard to get where I am today.”