On the evening of Saturday 28 July 2012, South Melbourne FC was losing 2-1 away against the Southern Stars deep into normal time at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex. The possibility of playing finals football seemed to be slipping away from South, however within the space of a couple of minutes, the season seemed reinvigorated. Steve Burton equalised in the 91st minute before South youth product Nick Jacobs headed the ball into the net in the 94th minute to seal a 2-3 win for South and cause scenes of delirium amongst the travelling supporters.
Although only 17 at the time, Jacobs was in the South Melbourne senior squad and was always eventually going to get regular playing time in the seniors as he got older. Unfortunately though, his match-winning effort against Southern Stars would be his seventh and final match for the Club after he badly injured his leg the following week during a school sports competition. After a nightmare eighteen months that included many unsuccessful surgeries, a frustrated Jacobs was forced to reluctantly retire from the game that he loved and opted to focus on his academic future and life away from football.
Speaking exclusively to smfc.com.au, Jacobs outlined the battle he went through trying to get back onto the park for South Melbourne. “The scope of the injuries I had sustained over the two seasons meant that I had undergone five surgeries on the same ankle and foot. I found that I was unable to train or compete at the level that I desired, so I decided to retire from football” he said.
After taking a break from all forms of sport for six months, Jacobs then began thinking about ways to get back into playing competitive sport whilst also building on the academic side of his life. A left-field option he eventually decided to explore was playing as a College Punter in the United States of America. “I had heard about some boys going to the USA to play College football, so I contacted and attended a session with ProKick Australia that was run by Nathan Chapman and John Smith. They had previously placed a steady stream of Australians into top line Division 1 College’s all over the United States, so I thought I would have a chance. After a six month training period with Prokick, I subsequently received a four-year scholarship offer from the University of Memphis, which covered all costs and every detail of my day to day life.”
Since July this year, Jacobs has been in the USA playing an integral part in the Memphis Tigers’ season, where the side won a share of the American Conference title. It was the first time that Memphis had won the title since the 1971 season.
Playing in front of an average home crowd of just over 40,000 people each week, Jacobs has quickly found a new home in Memphis and will be a part of the side that will take on BYU in the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl on Monday 22 December. The match is expected to be shown live on ESPN around the globe, including in Australia.
Nick has played twelve matches since breaking into the Memphis first team and has impressed many football experts with his form early in his career. A versatile punter who can also be used as a kicker due to his football background, Jacobs has made 16 punts at the top level, gaining 531 yards for his side.
Jacobs is naturally excited about what the future holds for him in the USA. “It has been an amazing experience so far. Twelve months ago it would have been hard to believe that I would be playing against the famous UCLA at the iconic Rose Bowl in Los Angeles and Ole Miss where the crowds were both 75,000. My short-term aim is to complete my degree here in the USA and travel around as much as possible. In terms of playing American football in the future, I will keep trying my best and see where that takes me, however so far it has been like a dream.”
The entire South Melbourne FC family wishes Nick all the best as he continues to pursue a new and exciting dream in the United States following his sad retirement from football. We hope that we can see him playing in for a NFL franchise one day.