Alex Mastromanno had traveled but never to the United States. His first trip here was when he moved more than 10,000 miles from Australia to Tallahassee to come to Florida State and be a student-athlete.
Adjusting to college life in a new city is a challenge for many freshmen. Mastromanno was moving a world away from his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, with nearly 5 million people, to Tallahassee.
“When I got here, I was pretty amazed at the campus size,” Mastromanno said. “I didn’t realize how many people actually attended the university as well. That was a bit of a shock for me. Going to classes early on, sitting in lectures with about 500 people in a room at once, that’s something I’ve never experienced before. That was a little bit overwhelming at the start, just how many people there were. But I think once I got to meet everybody within the football department as well and a few people from class, I actually realize how great everybody was here, and how welcoming and supportive they were of my transition.”
Mastromanno admits he was initially homesick but in large part it was due to the academic workload and a new culture. Add in that he had never seen an American football game in person and was now playing it. But in time he settled in and Florida State has become home.
“It was really great for me and gave me a lot of confidence that I’m in the right spot and this is the best place for me to find success,” Mastromanno said. “I think it was the best thing that I’ve ever done coming to an institution like this, and I haven’t really looked back ever since.”
Mastromanno has been a consistent presence for Florida State, averaging 43.5 yards per punt as a freshman (30th among FBS punters in 2020). He has had four punts of beyond 50 yards, including a 54-yarder at Miami.
“He has tremendous work ethic,” special teams coordinator John Papuchis said. “Every day when he comes out to practice, you can tell he’s ready for whatever his role is gonna be that day. He takes a lot of pride in his craft. And I think that’s why you see that he’s more mature than his football playing experience would reflect. And I think that’s why you see a consistent player out of him. And to me, we’ve only scratched the surface of what he’s gonna become.”
Growing up in Melbourne, Mastromanno played Australian Rules Football but didn’t have a strong connection to the sport. He worked at his father’s butcher shop while he was in high school and said he didn’t have “too much direction as to where I would be going.” After traveling and giving his future prospects some thought, Mastromanno decided to begin his training and pursue a college scholarship. He connected with Pro Kick Australia and they helped him, taking what he knew of the Aussie game and showed him the technique for the American game.
Why are there so many Australians playing in U.S. colleges and the NFL? For Mastromanno, it’s an easy explanation. In the U.S., kids grow up throwing, running and catching. And while they kick, whether it’s a soccer ball or field-goal attempts, it’s different from punting.
“When you grow up punting or kicking a football from the time you are 3 or 4 years old, that helps you transition to college football,” said Mastromanno, who played Australian rules football for more than a decade. “We really do have those good fundamentals. I’m fortunate to come from the best punting program in the world.”
Mastromanno has built a strong connection with teammates as well as coach Mike Norvell.
“I love that all the things that he talks about with football really do translate into real life,” Mastromanno said. “He is really big on our response to adversity and success. And that’s not just with football and each play, but that’s in life as well. It’s how we respond to those situations. And that’s what he’s really instilled in us to make sure that it’s about what we do next, not what we’ve done or what might have happened, whether it be good or bad, but how we’re going to respond to that.
“He’s been an amazing motivator and mentor for me and I’m just so lucky that I get to see him every day and get to work with him.”
Mastromanno has already seen more of the world than most people. He said Australians are welcoming and Melbourne is often considered one of the most livable cities in the world. Mastromanno thinks American tourists would enjoy the culture of the country and the laid-back personalities of the people.
While the coronavirus pandemic has limited Mastromanno’s ability to travel during the spring and summer, he hopes to spend more time seeing the U.S. and mentioned New York and California as two destinations as he wants to “explore American and see what it’s really about.” But for now, he’s settling in to Tallahassee and enjoying his new home.
“It’s just life-changing,” Mastromanno said. “Never in my life, growing up, would I have thought about playing football at Florida State University, let alone in America. Just to come over here and have that experience, to have three to four more years that I have ahead of me, it’s just something that I’m so thankful for every day. There’s not another place I’d rather be right now. So far, it’s been unbelievable. The people here have been first class and treated me really well and I’m just so excited about the future here.”