David Shanahan grew up watching American football in his sitting room in Castleisland in east Kerry.

When very young, he never really knew what was happening, but if it was good enough for his older brothers Billy and Rob, then the NFL was good enough for him too.

Each week he tuned in, and in time Shanahan learned the rules and found it both engaging and entertaining. The seed was sown.

In January he will take the massive leap from that couch to becoming the first player born and raised in this country to take up a college football career.

Naturally, Gaelic football was a big part of his youth, and he represented Kerry at underage level, missing out on minor representation with his county as the age grade was lowered to U17 in 2018.

But Shanahan was a natural athlete and shone on the boards of the Kerry basketball courts too.

"The whole punting thing stemmed from the fact that I watched a lot of college football," he tells RTÉ Sport.

"I preferred it to the NFL as I loved the crowds and the passion. It  felt as if it meant more to the people watching it.

"I saw that a lot of the punters and kickers were actually Australian, which I thought was funny. And when I looked into it more, I discovered they were all coming from the same place, an organisation called Prokick Australia."

Prokick is based in Melbourne and is run by Nathan Chapman and John Smith, two former NFL players who take in up to 30 young players a year, mainly local guys whose careers didn't take off in Australian Rules.

They supply about 75% of punters and kickers who ply their trade in the college game in America.

"I'm fully aware it’s a really slim chance. Every year only one or two college punters make it to the NFL."

Shanahan had a notion that he could do this. He purchased American footballs online and got to work developing his technique on the Castleisland Desmonds GAA pitch. He put together some highlights on a video and sent it Down Under.

"The moment I probably realised I could do it was when John Smith, who is from Manchester, contacted me for an assessment. He was in Manchester at the time and flew over to meet me in Dublin. I had a kick with him, and he said he thought I had the potential. It was then I probably believed I really could do it."

Last August, at the tender age of 18, having just completed the Leaving Cert, he moved to Melbourne to begin the most remarkable journey that has resulted in him accepting an American Football scholarship at Georgia Tech.

In January 2021, Covid-19 permitting, he will take up residence with the four-time national champions.

The team is in a rebuilding phase at the moment but Shanahan is hoping this might be a good opportunity to make an impression. Georgia Tech compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference and play in front of home crowds of 55,000.

The NFL is a dream, and the teenager is reluctant to call it any more than that for now.

"I’m fully aware it’s a really slim chance. Every year only one or two college punters make it to the NFL.

"Obviously, I’d be optimistic. I’d still call it a dream, it wouldn’t be a goal. But that is four maybe five years down the line. I’ll try and enjoy my time at Georgia Tech first."  

Much of his time in Australia has been spent developing his leg strength, a key component for any American Football kicker.

Shanahan has learned to optimise that power by becoming more explosive through his hips. But technique is king when it comes to making it as a punter, and the skills honed on the GAA field have presented him with the opportunity of a lifetime.

In true GAA style, some of his kicking methods don’t fit with natural convention.

"I’m a lefty when kicking through my hands, but I’m hoping to the take the kick off as well. These are done from a tee to start a game, or the restart following a score. When I’m taking those, I actually prefer using my right leg!"

As a Kerry teen punting on the college American football scene, David Shanahan has every right to tell himself that sometimes convention is overrated.