Former AFL and NFL star Ben Graham's advice for Valentine Holmes.
Former AFL and NFL star Ben Graham's advice for Valentine Holmes.

Holmes faces ‘long road’ to NFL success

THE first Australian to play in an American Super Bowl reckons it's worth Valentine Holmes giving a shot in NFL - but cautions there's "a long road ahead" for the former Sharks star.

Ben Graham, who played in the 2009 Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals, has backed Valentine Holmes's audacious gamble this week to quit the NRL and pursue a career in the US.

Graham, who was first picked up by the New York Jets in 2005 after playing 200-plus AFL games with the Geelong Cats, reckons NFL clubs will take a look at the 23-year-old.

Speaking exclusively with The Daily Telegraph, Graham said: "Given his age, if he can prove that in the early stages he has the speed, power and learning ability from a technical standpoint, I'm sure there will be clubs that will want to look at him - like Jarryd Hayne, they gave him the opportunity.

"He would definitely be worth a shot, like Jarryd Hayne, like Jordan Mailata, because I know the American recruiting network, they are scouring Australian talent every day, not just for punters but rugby league," Graham said.

"Jarryd has set somewhat of a pathway which has certainly alerted American recruiters that there are Australian athletes that could potentially make the transition.

"Ultimately it will be up to Valentine to see how long he wants to pursue it because it will take some time.

"It might take a couple of off-seasons for him to really grasp it. It mightn't be for two or three years.

"It will be a long road for him," added Graham, a left-footed punter.

"He's got time on his side. If he does give it a couple of years and doesn't make it or establish himself with a long-term contract, he can still come back and play rugby league at the highest level.

"What we don't know is what position he will play."

Ben Graham knows how tough the NFL is. (Valeriu Campan)
Ben Graham knows how tough the NFL is. (Valeriu Campan)


Graham played 99 games for the Jets - being taken on a short-term contract in 2005 before signed in 2006 on a six-year contract for US$5.17 million. He then moved to the New Orleans Saints (2008) and Cardinals (2008-2011), where he played in Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also signed with the Detroit Lions (2011-2012) but never played because of injury that forced his retirement.

Holmes had to be respected for pushing the button, Graham said.

"I admire anyone that has the self-belief and confidence and think they have the skills and ability to transition from one professional sport to another.

"My advice is to ensure you've got everything you possibly can out of your chosen sport, based on it is very difficult to make the transition into the NFL given the number of professional athletes."

But getting to the top of a foreign game is not going to be easy, Graham warned.

"The way the system is structured in the US - you play high school football, transition into college football and transition into NFL. There are no other leagues to apply your trade.

"Other than the skill, speed and power you already possess, it's the technical side of the game that the Americans grow up learning and understanding, which is the hardest hurdle for athletes coming from different sports.

"That is what Jarryd Hayne found and that's what Valentine will find."


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