Former Shark trying to become a Jet

Darin Gantt
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

With OTAs being the non-padded, non-contact events they are, Jets rookie Valentine Holmes still felt like a rugby player.

It wasn’t until he had to pose in a full uniform for team photos that he realized things were very different.

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“To wear the full suit — the tight pants, the jersey, the pads and the helmet — it was pretty cool,” Holmes said, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. “To see my name on the back of a New York Jets jersey, that was pretty cool, too. It’s something I’ll hold close.”

The Australian rugby conversion is still getting used to a new game, beginning with all the pads. He’s their allocation through the league’s international pathway program, which places foreign players on teams, with a chance at a free practice squad spot.

That’s quite a departure from his stardom in the National Rugby League in Australia, where he was a big-name player for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, and his departure angered some fans.

“I feel like I want to challenge myself as a person and as a player and as an athlete,” Holmes said. “There’s no better way than to compete over here in America in the NFL. It’s the pinnacle of sport in America. I’ve always been watching it since I’ve been in high school. The opportunity arose for me and I was toward the end of a contract at that time, and I kind of fell into it. There were a couple of clubs that were keen on me and wanted to get me over for a tryout.

“It kind of worked its way out. I’m young and I don’t like to live with regrets. If it doesn’t work out or I don’t like it, or if I’m not good enough, I can always go back and try rugby again.”

He was making $720,000 in Australia last season, and would make (everything’s relative) just $129,000 if he spends the year on the Jets practice squad. His speed has the Jets giving him a look as a running back and a returner, and he’s hoping he can learn enough to hang around on their 53-man roster.

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