At 16 years old, Perth native Mitch Wishnowsky dropped out of school to become an apprentice glazier. He’d once dreamed about a career playing either soccer or Aussie rules football but any chances were ruined by a series of injuries. Don’t feel too sorry for Mitch, though. He’s just signed a four-year contract extension with the San Francisco 49ers reportedly worth US$13 million (AU$19 million).
When Wishnowsky first signed up for a recreational American flag football league in 2013, he had no idea that decision would ultimately lead to him becoming the seventh highest-paid punter in the NFL (and one of its highest-paid Australian players ever). After going through the Prokick Australia kicking and punting academy, he was selected by the 49ers with the 110th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Four NFL seasons later, the 30-year-old Mitch Wishnowsky is set to earn around US$3 million (AU$4.4 million) playing in the Bay Area until 2026. For reference, Dustin Martin – the highest-earning player in a sport that was out of reach for MW – is said to earn around $1.2 million every season. Yes. A bloke that kicks the ball a bit more than three times a game makes four times the salary of your favourite footy player.
The “Punter from Down Under” has some serious power in his kick. Having appeared in 50 games, Wishnowsky has registered 179 punts for 7,423 yards and an average of 41.2 yards per punt. To date, he has pinned 72 of his punts inside the 20-yard line.
Last season, Wishnowsky appeared in all 17 games, registering 57 punts for 2,310 yards and an average of 40.5 yards per punt while pinning 21 of them inside the 20-yard line. He earned himself NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honours in Week Two and NFC Special Teams Player of the Month honours in September.
Last season also had another layer of significance, as it saw Wishnowsky become the first Australian to ever score a point in an NFL regular season game. When the 49ers’ usual kicker Robbie Gould sustained an injury, the main man Mitchell was right there to slot through the extra point against the Seahawks. You beauty.
He’s kicked off 214 times for 112 touchbacks, delivering some pretty serious tackles to the poor lads on the opposition gutsy enough to return his kicks.
Prior to becoming a fan favourite of the 49ers faithful, he played three seasons at the University of Utah where he was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award for the best punter in college football on three occasions and won the title in 2016.
Mitch Wishnowsky has gone on to play in Super Bowl LIV, make heaps of money, and win more awards. Having well exceeded the expectations of the 16-year-old going for his apprenticeship and cemented himself as a legendary Australian athlete, let’s just say those childhood injuries were a blessing in disguise.