In many ways Michael Dickson’s rookie NFL season couldn’t have gone much better.
But that won’t stop the boy from the shire from setting his sets even higher next season.
Dickson’s incredible debut season for the Seattle Seahawks culminated with his selection in the 2019 Pro Bowl.
The 23-year-old from Kirrawee made NFL history by becoming the first rookie punter in more than 30 years to be selected to play in the annual game that brings together the best players in the NFL, representing the NFC conference in their 26-7 defeat to the AFC in Orlando, Florida last month.
Seattle finished the regular season second in the NFC West with a 10-6 record behind eventual Super Bowl runners-up Los Angeles before losing in the Wild Card round to Dallas in the first week of the play-offs.
But it was Dickson’s personal season, in which he was also named First Team All Pro, that was one of the highlights of Seattle’s season.
As well as his pin point punting ability, Dickson wowed American audiences with his drop punts, an extreme rarity in the NFL.
Then there was his audacious ‘fake punt’ that helped the team to victory against Detroit in October that saw Dickson make headlines across the sporting globe.
Back home in the shire for a break at the end of a grueling NFL season, Dickson told the Leader he was keen to keep improving next season.
“I achieved a lot of things I wanted to goal wise and playing wise but there’s still so many things I can improve on,” he said.
“Every game there was something that I was like ‘damn, I wish I did that or need to improve that’.
“It took a lot of getting used to being on a new team and developing a new routine. A lot of my goals I achieved but I still have so many more goals that I want to set an even higher standard to reach next year.
"It wasn’t too hard trying to prove myself to other people just because it was me having my own standards and competing against myself in a way.
“I looked back a lot to my first year [in college football] at Texas and I didn’t have high enough standards. I was kind of thrown into the deep end, I’d only punted for a couple of months at the local park.
“Looking back I should have set myself higher standards. I worked out pretty quickly the higher I set my standards the better off I was going to be.”
The drop kicks and the ‘fake punt’ were individual highlights that Dickson said gave him more confidence.
“It was cool that [American sports fans] appreciated it. [A drop punt is] such a risky thing to do in a game. With their balls and the way they bounce like that it’s cool they appreciate the skill for what it is,” he said.
“Being an American football and so pointy it can end badly if you get it wrong.
“[The fake punt] gave me a bit more credit [in the locker room] just because it was so gutsy. Looking back I realise how crazy it was but at the time I saw an opportunity and went for it.
“It helped build my confidence even more. After that game I think I punted my best, it was a couple of games streak after that. Everything was in a groove and I relaxed a little bit. I just felt like I belonged.”
As for the future, Dickson plans on keeping it simple.
“I just never want to take my foot off the pedal. Each year I want to maintain the same work ethic. I think I should just be trying to keep on an upward trajectory and improving each year,” he said.
“I’d hate to see myself go backwards. I want to keep pushing and not set any limits.”