- Why the Perth-born punter is nicknamed ‘Boomin’ Onion’
- How he rose from making $1000 a week to a $19million contract
- Why he stopped playing Aussie Rules before code switch
Mitch Wishnowsky has travelled a long road that’s taken him from working as a tradie in Western Australia to standing on the brink of Super Bowl glory with the San Francisco 49ers.
The 31-year-old punter from was drafted by the five-time NFL champions in 2019 after a fluke encounter set him on the path to making megabucks in American football.
After dropping out of high school aged 16, he took up an apprenticeship as a glazier. At the time he was attracted by the idea of earning $1000 a week, but later admitted, ‘Mum told me it was a stupid decision.’
Wishnowsky tried his hand at Aussie Rules but gave the sport away after suffering a shoulder injury that interfered with his ability to work.
However, fortune smiled on him when he met one of gridiron’s leading figures down under, Craig Wilson, while he was kicking a footy with some friends in a park in his home town of Perth.
Wishnowsky (pictured with wife Maddie) would have been happy with making $1000 a week when he was a tradie. Now he’s on a $19million contract
The Perth native (pictured playing for the 49ers as they beat the Packers in the playoffs this year) owes his start in the NFL to a chance meeting in a park in his home town
Wilson saw his talent for punting and recommended him to John Smith and Nathan Chapman of the Prokick Australia academy, which trains Aussie athletes who want to make it into college football and the NFL.
Wishnowsky uprooted himself and left for the academy in Melbourne, at one stage thinking he’d have to sleep in the 24-hour gym he joined because he struggled so badly to find accommodation.
Working as a bartender to support himself at the time, he quickly caught the eye of Prokick trainers, who loved his athleticism and unusual size and strength for a punter.
From there he went to Santa Barbara City College in California in 2014 to meet the academic standards needed for him to move on to a major football college in the States.
In 2016 he moved to the University of Utah, where he won the Ray Guy Award as the best punter in college football in his first season with the team, and followed that up with great play in the next two campaigns as well.
San Francisco selected Wishnowsky in the fourth round of the 2019 draft – which is almost unheard of for a punter – but they loved what they saw when he worked out for them.
Wishnowsky, wife Maddie and their daughter Bowie are pictured as he signs the contract that made his long struggle to break into gridiron more than worthwhile
The 31-year-old won the Ray Guy Award as the best punter in college football in his first year playing for the University of Utah (pictured)
It was an ideal match.
‘A lot of those teams [who were interested in him] were in cold places and I thought, I would love to end up in San Francisco,’ the Aussie said.
His wife Maddie – who gave birth to the couple’s daughter Bowie just before a big game in October 2021 – said of her husband’s big break: ‘That was one of the times I’ve seen the most emotion from him, for sure. This was something he’s been working toward for ages.’
Many Niners fans were angry the team took him so high in the draft, but they soon changed their tune when he hammered Denver Broncos star Devontae Jackson into the ground with a massive tackle during a preseason game in August 2020.
At 188cm and 100kg, the Aussie is uncommonly big and strong for a punter – and he put his physicality to great use in a highlight-reel tackle against the Denver Broncos in 1990 (below)
Wishowsky has won plenty of awards and accolades with the five-time Super Bowl champion team, including two NFC special teams player of the month awards, and being named as a Pro Bowl player in 2022 and 2024.
He’s also been nicknamed the ‘Boomin’ Onion’ – a take on the American-based, Australian-themed Outback Steakhouse restaurant chain’s well-known ‘Bloomin’ Onion’ dish.
In September 2022 the Niners signed him to a four-year contract extension worth $19million in Australian money – putting that $1000 a week he was keen on back in his tradie days well and truly in the shade.
Barring injury, he’s a sure thing to line up for the NFC champions against the Kansas City Chiefs when the Super Bowl comes to Las Vegas on Monday, February 12 (Australian time).
That will make him the second Aussie punter in a row to feature in the year’s biggest game, after Arryn Siposs ran out for Philadelphia last year.