A “speechless” Valentine Holmes is a big step closer to realising his ambition of playing in the NFL.
All Holmes wanted was a chance with an NFL team and the New York Jets have given him that shot as part of an expansion of the International Player Pathway program.
The 23-year-old will be determined to force his way onto the Jets’ 53-man roster when he returns to the US for the next phase of his journey.
“New York here I come!!” tweeted Holmes.
I’m speechless. I don’t know where to start. Firstly I would like to thank the @nyjets for giving me the opportunity to join your organisation.
I’d like to thank my family, friends, fans, Chris and Gavin Orr from @pacific_sports for supporting me.!
New York here I come!! ✌🏽🏈 pic.twitter.com/CqqXxPd18l
— Valentine Holmes (@val_holmes1) April 9, 2019
The former NRL star, who walked away from a $5 million contract with Cronulla, will share a locker room with star running back Le’Veon Bell and quarterback Sam Darnold at the New Jersey-based Jets.
“I’m speechless. I don’t know where to start,” added Holmes.
“I would like to thank the @nyjets for giving me the opportunity to join your organisation.”
Holmes, who has been training as a running back, wide-receiver and punt/kick returner during the past three months at Florida’s IMG Academy, will take a significant pay cut from his NRL days with Pathway players on NFL practice squads earning $US129,200 ($181,500) per season.
“I just want to get on a team first and work my way up and then worry about getting into the 53,” Holmes told AAP last month.
The NFL announced on Monday that Holmes and three other elite athletes have been allocated to teams in the AFC East division – the Jets, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.
Pathway players are only eligible to play in the NFL if they can force their way into a franchise’s playing roster before the August 31 deadline.
If they do not they a guaranteed a practice squad place or they can be picked up as a free agent by another NFL team.
'I've got my foot in the door and I'm ready to kick it down.'
Val Holmes is 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/TtO1uNIoFd
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) April 9, 2019
Holmes was tipped to return to the NRL if he did not land a spot on an NFL team, with North Queensland heavily touted as a destination.
“I’ve only spoken to him by text. He let us know when he knew what was going on,” Cowboys captain Michael Morgan said of Holmes.
“His intention was to go there and stay there and that’s what he’s doing for now.”
Holmes will continue a strong Australian tradition at the Jets with punter Lachlan Edwards raised on the Mornington Peninsula.
Geelong AFL great turned punter, Ben Graham, was a member of the Jets from 2005 to 2008 while another Victorian, Tom Hackett, a two-time Ray Guy Award winner, trialled with the team in 2016.
"He's got four [pre-season] games to prove himself, and that’s not a lot of time. It'll be extremely difficult"
— Michael Chammas (@MichaelChammas) April 9, 2019
A year ago South Sydney junior Jordan Mailata, a Pathway graduate, was taken in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by Philadelphia Eagles.
The other international players allocated NFL teams on Monday via the Pathway were British rugby union speedster Christian Wade (Bills), Brazilian judo champion Durval Neto (Dolphins) and German tight end Jakob Johnson (Patriots).